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Smoking Dependency

Smoking dependency—every time a person smokes, he or she inhales, apart from nicotine—an extremely deadly toxin (a single pinhead-sized drop of liquid nicotine, introduced directly into the bloodstream, would be fatal), over 4,000 different chemicals, 43 of which are known to cause cancer in humans; yet, once you become addicted, your body depends on the presence of nicotine; without it you feel “incomplete.”

Nicotine, which is extremely addictive, increases levels of the pleasure-inducing brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Tobacco has been used as a mood-altering substance for centuries. It has been ingested by various means, including chewing, sniffing, and smoking. Today, it is most commonly consumed by smoking cigarettes.

Nicotine acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system; when nicotine is ingested, adrenaline production increases, raising the blood pressure and heart rate. Nicotine also affects the overall metabolic rate, the regulation of body temperature, the degree of tension in the muscles, and the levels of certain hormones. These and other metabolic changes create a pleasurable sensation in the user that often—and paradoxically—is experienced as feeling relaxed.

Once you become addicted, your body depends on the presence of nicotine. If you then refrain from smoking, withdrawal symptoms occur. These include irritability, frustration, anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, increased appetite, headache, stomach cramps, a slowed heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, and, most of all, an intensive craving for nicotine.

Once the smoking habit has been acquired, it is difficult to break. Some authorities have stated that addition to tobacco may be harder to overcome than addition to heroin or cocaine. This is because smoking creates both physical and psychological dependency. It may be easier to overcome the physical addition than the psychological addition. Acute physical withdrawal, while unpleasant, lasts for a limited time only, usually no more than several week, two months, perhaps. Long-term cravings are more likely a matter of psychological dependency, and require an ongoing effort to master.

Even though it can be difficult to stop smoking, many people do it every day. There is certainly no shortage of reasons why you should. Cigarettes are a factor in approximately 17 percent of all deaths in the United States annually—that’s 350,000 to 400,000 people a year which is more than the number of deaths from alcohol, illegal drugs, traffic accidents, suicide, and homicide combined.

Also, smoking has a detrimental effect on nutrition. Smokers break down vitamin C about twice as fast as nonsmokers. This can deprive the body of adequate amounts of one of the most powerful and versatile antioxidants at our disposal.

Finally, smoking is increasingly a social problem. More and more nonsmokers are becoming concerned over the effects of “secondhand” smoke on their own health, and with reason. There is a growing body of evidence to show that secondhand smoke may be even more dangerous than the smoke that the smoker breathes. Therefore, smoking is now prohibited in many workplaces and public buildings.

Surveys consistently show that no matter when or why they started, most current smokers do not smoke because they want to—well over 50 percent say they wish they had never started—but because they are addicted.

The difficulty of quitting appears to be related less to how many packs a day you smoke than to how early in life you started smoking.

Many people have successfully quit smoking by going on a fast using only live juices and quality steam-distilled water. A live juice fast can quickly remove nicotine and other damaging chemicals from your body. Adhering to a five-day live juice fast can have amazing effects.

The good news is that this addiction can be overcome, and that health benefits begin almost immediately. In just twenty-four hours after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse rate should return to normal, as should the levels of oxygen and carbon monoxide in your blood. Within a week, your risk of heart attack begins to decrease, your senses of smell and taste improve, and breathing becomes easier again.

There are many different strategies for overcoming smoking dependency. The secret to success may be finding the path that is right for you. No If’s, And’s, or Butts, The Smoker’s Guide to Quitting, by Harlan M. Krumholz and Robert H. Phillips (Avery Publishing Group, 1993), is a comprehensive and detailed guide to the many and varied strategies that have helped people to break the smoking habit. You can buy this book here.

References

Research at the University of Indiana found that people who drank six cups of tea a day were protected from the toxic effects cigarette smoke has on lungs by up to 50 percent.

Smoking a pack a day or more triples the risk of needing surgery for a herniated disk, but quitting smoking reduces that risk, according to research done at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

According to a study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, smoking increases the risk of developing leukemia by 30 percent.

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