Cigarette smoking, a big why? The reasons reside in complex biochemistry and strong neuro-associations. Are smokers doomed or there is light at the end of the tunnel?
For the last 60 years a new wave against cigarette smoking has swept the planet, forcing millions of people to face their addiction. Until a couple of decades ago tobacco giants claimed that cigarette smoking was not directly related to cancer, heart disease and ultimately death. Thanks to the constant research in the field of medicine, cigarettes were finally put on the stand as one of the primary causes of death worldwide. Despite the well-known effects of cigarettes smoking these are sold by the sheer number of 15 billion a day and counting.
Why and How Does Addiction Occur?
Each cigarette contains in excess of 4000 chemicals with nicotine as its main component. The latter is a natural liquid-like substance found in the tobacco leaves and it is identified as the cause for cigarette addiction. Addiction is the result of complex mechanisms triggered by the absorption of nicotine in the brain and the body.
The addiction process begins immediately. With each drag the smoker experiences a “high” due to the direct stimulation of the adrenal glands which in turn release a substance named “adrenaline.” Adrenaline is responsible for increasing respiration, heart beat and blood pressure. In the brain nicotine has a similar effect.
Cigarette smoking fosters the secretion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter directly responsible for feelings such as pleasure and euphoria. The direct and immediate correlation between these feelings and the act of smoking is at the root of nicotine addiction.
As with many other addictive substances, the constant use of nicotine causes a phenomenon called “tolerance” in which ever increasing doses of the same substance are needed in order to produce the same stimulating effects.
Why is it Hard to Quit?
When the required amount of nicotine necessary to cause stimulation in the body is not maintained, the smoker begins suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
Some of these symptoms may vary but generally include:
- increased appetite resulting in weight gain
- difficulty concentrating
While the presence of these symptoms will gradually diminish after the last cigarette has been smoked, still many people will find hard to cope with them and in some cases the symptoms can affect the daily functioning of each individual who is trying to quit.
Ways to Quit Smoking
People who take the decision to quit will undoubtedly take a big step toward a longer and healthier life. The good news is that at the present there are number of methods available to do so. There are two main approaches, the medical and non-medical therapies.
The former uses nicotine replacement therapies where nicotine is administered in a less damaging form (without the dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes) such as nicotine gums and nicotine patches. Here nicotine is delivered in small and steady doses reducing the withdrawal symptoms.
This process leads the person to a gradual adjustment to a cigarette-free life. Most recently, some drugs, like bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix), both non-nicotine drugs, have been proven to help smokers by reducing the severity of nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Vaping is also considered a safer alternative and a reliable way to help people stop smoking as it still gives them that “nicotine kick” without the harmful effects of the toxic substances found in conventional cigarettes, confirms this vaping research. Furthermore, quit rates are found to be nearly twice as high in people who switch to e-cigarettes than in those who use other nicotine-replacement therapies according to many other researches.
Non-medical therapies are medicine-free methods aiming at improving the psychological impact of nicotine withdrawal. Hypnosis, for example, with the help of a specialized hypnotherapist, aspires to strengthen the resolution to quit while associating negative feeling to the cigarette use.
Cognitive/Behavioural therapy is a popular psychological approach used mainly to treat some mental illnesses such as depression and personality disorders. This therapy helps the individual to recognize smoking related behavioral patterns whilst providing coping skills to break the habit.
Regardless of the method chosen to quit nicotine addiction it appears that, in the majority of cases, best results are achieved by highly motivated individuals. Withdrawals symptoms can often cause relapse if there is a lack of discipline and determination.
After failing several attempts, people may experience depression and loss of self-esteem hence letting the cigarette win the ultimate battle in the quest for a healthy, longer and better life.
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