What Is a Smoking Addiction?
A smoking addiction means a person has formed an uncontrollable dependence on cigarettes to the point where stopping smoking would cause severe emotional, physical or psychological reactions.
Those addicted to smoking, on an average, die 10 to 15 years earlier than they would have died from other causes. This means they live a life full of work and don’t get to enjoy their retirement period.
1. Most smokers want to stop and do indeed try. Unfortunately most decide to seriously quit only after 50, when the changes in the brain and body have become irreversible.
2. Those who eventually quit smoking usually try to stop two or three times before they're successful.
3. Only 2.5 percent of smokers successfully quit each year.
Why Is Smoking Addictive?
Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction. It is absorbed and enters the bloodstream, through the lungs when smoke is inhaled, and through the lining of the mouth (buccal mucosa) when tobacco is chewed or used as oral snuff or for non-inhaled pipe and cigar smoking.
Nicotine is a psychoactive drug. It has calming effects, especially at times of stress, as well as effects on hormonal and other systems throughout the body. It causes activation of "pleasure centres" in the brain which explain the pleasure and addictiveness of smoking.
Smokers develop tolerance to nicotine and slowly require higher doses to get the same effect.
Is Smoking A Physical Addiction?
Smoking is a physical addiction that produces a "chain reaction" in the body:
• The smoke is mild enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Due to the large surface area of the lungs, nicotine is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and reaches the brain within 7 seconds - more rapidly than after an intravenous injection.
• In this way the smoker gets a small intravenous-like shot of nicotine after each inhaled puff: 20 cigarettes a day, each puffed 10 times, comes to more than 70,000 "shots" per year.
• Nicotine acts on neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system. Neurotransmitters are the "chemical messengers" within the brain.
• Thus nicotine on repeated use induces structural as well as functional changes in the brain of smokers.
• When nicotine is suddenly withdrawn, physiological functions in the brain and other parts of the body are disturbed. This is known as withdrawal syndrome. It takes time for the body to readjust to functioning normally without nicotine.
How Smoking Affects the Body?
• Heart disease. Smoking is responsible for 30 percent of all heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths.
• Cancer. It is responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths each year.
• Lung problems. Smoking is responsible for 82 percent of deaths due to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
• Smoking delays healing of peptic ulcers of the stomach and duodenum.
• Its effects on blood vessels cause chronic pains in the legs (claudication) which can progress to gangrene and amputations of the toes or feet.
• Causes wrinkling of the skin of the face to develop earlier in chronic smokers. On average they look 5 years older than non-smokers of the same age do.
• Smoking also brings on an earlier menopause in women, advancing it by an average of 5 years.
• It reduces women's fertility and delays conception after they stop using oral contraceptives.
• It impairs erections in middle-aged and older men and may affect the quality of their sperm. It seems to "sedate" sperm and to impair their motility. This is reversed after stopping smoking.
• Smoking accelerates the rate of osteoporosis, a disease which causes bones to weaken and fracture more easily.
• Women who smoke during pregnancy damage their unborn child, causing effects that last throughout the child's life. The risks of miscarriage, premature birth, and death of the baby in its first year of life are all significantly increased.
Motivation To Stop
• Health. Concern for your own health is by far the most important motive to quit. The onset of minor ailments, such as coughs, sore throats, breathlessness, indigestion, and feeling generally less well and less fit, are early signs that the body has had enough. These early warnings are more important in persuading some smokers to stop than is the risk of future fatal disease.
• Health of others. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to passive smoking in the home. Passive smokers or individuals who inhale smoke are equally exposed to all the health hazards.
• Expense. Stopping smoking leads to financial benefits like, lesser money spent on the substance, lesser visits to the doctor and lesser blood tests.
• Social pressure. As social pressure maybe a huge catalyst in forcing a person to start smoking, similarly in later years of life it might be a motivating factor to stop smoking. Family members, spouse, lover, friends might all help force to stop the habit.
• Mastery. Some people reach the stage where they realize that they get very little positive pleasure out of smoking and continue only because they are hooked. They come to resent the feeling of being controlled by their need to smoke, and are motivated to stop by their desire to regain control and self-mastery.
When You Are Stopping
On the day you have decided to stop smoking, keep the following in mind:
• Take it one day at a time. Aim to get through your first day without a cigarette, then the next day, and so on.
• Stick to your plans for keeping away from temptation and doing different things to take your mind off smoking.
• If you find it difficult, remember that it will eventually become easy. Think about the positive benefits of stopping. Think, one by one for a while, about the importance of each reason on your prepared list.
• If someone offers you a cigarette, say "no thanks," quickly and casually, then carry on the conversation on other topics. Mentioning that you have given up smoking opens up the subject for discussion. You need to keep it out of your mind as much as possible.
• Don't give up trying if you slip up and have a cigarette. Be determined not to have another. You can't afford to slip up too many times. It makes things much harder for you.
• If you use nicotine gum, remember to chew it slowly at first, especially if you find it unpleasant. It usually takes 2 to 3 days to get used to it. Don't expect it to be like a cigarette. It will not give positive satisfaction, but will help by relieving craving and other withdrawal effects.
• Don't be discouraged if urges to smoke seem to get stronger for a while after three to four days. The urges sometimes fluctuate at first, but will gradually go away completely, provided you don't give in and smoke.
• If you have an increase in hunger and an urge to eat more between meals, try fresh or dried fruit rather than sweets and chocolate. Don't worry about your weight or appetite at this stage, if it is difficult to control. Focus all your effort on not smoking.
If you find it difficult to stop smoking on your own, always be open to seek professional help.
a. Counselling – aim is to help you identify and tackle stress. Identify and tackle the time, place and person who maximum influences the need for the addiction
b. Medication from a professional psychiatrist- short term medication to help you unwind and relax your nervous system. Prevent withdrawal symptoms.