Video explains why so many smokers have trouble accepting the premise that they are fighting a drug addiction. Cigarettes were originally not classified as an addictive drug because they seemed to not fit the standard criteria set for addiction. The fact is, they met the criteria but because of their cheapness and ubiquitous availability, experts did not recognize the lengths people would go to smoke them.
Junkie, burn-out, addict, drug abuser, drunk, alcoholic, smoke-a-holic
Some people would argue that smoke-a-holic is just a cute euphemism which should not be compared to what they consider degrading syndromes. Contrary to this belief, nicotine addiction can be equally as strong and deadly as any of these other conditions. In fact, if you total the number of people who die yearly of all these other conditions combined, they would not add up to the number of premature deaths attributed to cigarette smoking.
Until recent times, the idea of nicotine being a physiologically addictive substance was controversial in the world-wide medical community. For a drug to be considered addictive, it must meet certain criteria. First, it must be capable of inducing physical withdrawal upon cessation. Nicotine abstinence syndrome is a well documented, established fact.
Second, tolerance to the drug usually develops. Increasingly larger doses become necessary to achieve the same desired effects. Smokers experience this phenomenon as their cigarette consumption gradually increases from what probably was sporadic occasional use to a required daily consumption of one or more packs.
The third criterion is that an addictive substance becomes a totally consuming necessity to its user, usually resulting in what is considered by a society as anti-social behavior. Many have argued that cigarette smoking fails to fulfill this requirement. True, most smokers do not resort to deviant behaviors to maintain their dependency, but this is because most smokers do manage to easily obtain the full complement of cigarettes they need to satisfy the addiction. When smokers are deprived of easy accessibility to cigarettes, the situation is totally different.
During World War II, in concentration camps in Germany, prisoners were not given enough food to fulfill minimum caloric nutritional requirements. They were literally starving to death. A common practice among smoking prisoners was to trade away their scarce supplies of life sustaining food for cigarettes. Even today, in underdeveloped countries, such as Bangladesh, parents with starving children barter away essential food for cigarettes. This is not normal behavior.
During the “stop smoking clinics” I conduct, numerous participants admit to going through ashtrays, garbage cans and, if necessary, gutters looking for butts which may still have a salvageable value of a few puffs when their own supplies are depleted due to carelessness or unforeseen circumstances. To them, it is sick to think that they ever performed such a grotesque act, but many realize that if they were currently smoking and again caught in a similar predicament, they would be fully capable of repeating the repulsive incident.
Nicotine is a drug. It is addictive. And if you let it, it can be a killer. Consider this when you get the urge for a cigarette. One puff can and most often will reinforce the addiction. Don’t take that chance. Remember – NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
Page last updated by Joel Spitzer on August 24, 2003
Are you a nicotine junkie?
The one attribute that shows the addictive nature of nicotine is not how hard or how easy it is to quit, nor is it how hard or easy it is for an individual to stay off smoking. The one true property that shows the power of the addiction is that no matter how long a person is off, one puff and that quit can go out the window.
Don’t ever try to prove to yourself that you were not addicted. You were addicted to nicotine all of the years you used it and you are addicted to it today too. But as an ex-smoker the addiction becomes asymptomatic. To keep it that way and to always stay in control remember to NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!
© Joel Spitzer 2002
Page last updated by Joel Spitzer on August 23, 2003
You Smoke Because You’re A Smoke-a-holic!
Some smokers say they smoke because they are nervous. Others say they smoke to celebrate. Some think they smoke for energy. Many smoke to look sexy. Yet others smoke to stay awake or to sleep. Some think they smoke to think. One truly unique smoker once told me she smoked to breathe better. Another once said she returned to smoking when experiencing chest pains. She figured the fear of a heart attack is enough to make anyone smoke. None of these reasons satisfactorily explains why people continue smoking. However, the answer is, in fact, quite simple. Smokers smoke cigarettes because they are smokers. More precisely, smokers smoke cigarettes because they are smoke-a-holics.
A smoke-a-holic, like any other drug addict, has become hooked on a chemical substance. In the cigarette smoker’s case, nicotine is the culprit. He is at the point where the failure to maintain a minimum level of nicotine in his blood stream leads to the nicotine abstinence syndrome, otherwise known as drug withdrawal. Anything that makes him lose nicotine makes him smoke.
This concept explains why so many smokers feel they smoke under stress. Stress has a physiological effect on the body which makes the urine acidic. Whenever the urine becomes acidic, the body excretes nicotine at an accelerated rate. Thus, when a smoker encounters a stressful situation he loses nicotine and goes into drug withdrawal. Most smokers feel that when they are nervous or upset cigarettes help calm them down. The calming effect, however, is not relief from the emotional strain of the situation, but actually the effect of replenishing the nicotine supply and ending the withdrawal. It is easy to understand why smokers without this basic knowledge of stress and its nicotine effect are afraid to give up smoking. They feel that they will be giving up a very effective stress management technique. But once they give up smoking for a short period of time, they will become calmer, even under stress, than when they were smokers.
The explanation of how physiological changes in the body make smokers smoke is difficult for some smokers to believe. But nearly all smokers can easily relate to other situations which also alter the excretion rate of nicotine. Ask a smoker what happens to their smoking consumption after drinking alcohol, and you can be sure they will answer that it goes up. If asked how much their consumption rises, they will normally reply that it doubles or even triples when drinking. They usually are convinced that this happens because everyone around them is smoking. But if they think back to a time when they were the only smoker in the room, they will realize that drinking still caused them to smoke more. Alcohol consumption results in the same physiological effect as stress – acidification of the urine. The nicotine level drops dramatically, and the smoker must light one cigarette after another or suffer drug withdrawal.
It is important for smokers considering quitting to understand these concepts because once they truly understand why they smoke they will be able to more fully appreciate how much more simple their life will become as an ex-smoker.
Once the smoker stops, nicotine will begin to leave his or her body and within two weeks all the nicotine will be gone. Once the nicotine is totally out of the body, all withdrawal will cease. No longer will they experience drug withdrawal states whenever encountering stress, drinking, or just going too long without smoking. In short, they will soon realize that all the benefits they thought they derived from smoking were false effects. They did not need to smoke to deal with stress, or to drink, socialize, or work. Everything they did as a smoker they can do as a non-smoker, and in most cases they will now do these activities more efficiently and feel better during them.
They will become a more independent people. It is a good feeling and a major accomplishment to break free from this addiction. But no matter how long they are off smoking and how confident they feel, the ex-smoker must always remember that he or she is a smoke-a-holic.
Being a smoke-a-holic means that as long as they don’t take a single drag off a cigarette, cigar or pipe, or chew tobacco, or inject it into their bloodstream with a syringe, they will never again become hooked on nicotine. If, on the other hand, they do make the tragic mistake of experimenting with any nicotine product, they will reinforce their addiction. This will result either in returning to their old level of consumption or experiencing a full fledged withdrawal process. Neither situation is fun to go through.
So, once off of smoking, the ex-smoker must always remember just who and what he is – a smoke-a-holic for the rest of his life. Remembering this, you can remain truly independent from nicotine by following one simple practice – Never Take Another Puff!
© Joel Spitzer 1983