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Admitting physical addiction key to quitting smoking

Most cigarette smokers pretend that their smoking of nicotine is not a true chemical addiction and organic brain wanting disorder but simply a "nasty little habit" that they will eventually figure out how to manipulate, tame, limit, mold or otherwise control. For far too many, such dependency denial and mind games continue until it is too late, with half losing 13-14 years of life expectancy. Key to being able to stop smoking and stay quit is treating nicotine dependency as if it were as real and permanent as alcoholism or heroin addiction, because it is.

young college smoker admitting she is hooked Admitting true physical chemical addiction to smoking, dipping or chewing nicotine paints a bright line in the sand. It's a line that boldly proclaims, "if I take in just one powerful hit of nicotine, it will be impossible to stop it from arriving in my brain, occupying up to 50% of my brain's nicotinic-type (a4b2) acetylcholine receptors, and generating a massive "aaah" wanting satisfaction sensation that my mind's priorities teacher will, in the short term, make nearly impossible to forget." Like an alcoholic taking just one sip, relapse is now all but assured.

The average nicotine addict is capable of listing scores of excuses as to why they smoke, dip or chew, or why now is not the time to quit. But once self-honesty puts "I am a true drug addict" on the list, all other smoking excuses and rationalizations became useless. For if truly nicotine's chemical slave, excuses that attempt to explain the rational mind's endless surrender to a chemically captive impulsive mind become just that, excuses.

Flavor? What other flavors don't you swallow? Taste? There are zero taste buds inside human lungs. Love, like? Is it that you "like" smoking nicotine or that you "don't like" what happens when you don't smoke it (withdrawal)? Stress? Stress turns the body's fluids acidic, quickly neutralizing reserves of the alkaloid nicotine. The nicotine addict spends their entire life adding the onset of early withdrawal to every stressful event. Pleasure? An honest mind would admit that, if allowed, each and every dopamine high would be followed by a corresponding anxiety laden and extremely depressed low.

Nicotine addiction is about living a lie. It's about an external chemical so resembling one of our own natural neuro-chemicals that once inside the brain it fits locks allowing it to take the brain's priorities teacher hostage. It is about how an enslaved mind elevates the next encounter with its captor to its new #1 priority in life. It's about totally burying the beauty of the quiet and calm mind we once called home.

Home to core survival instincts, dopamine pathways are designed to record the most salient and high definition memories the mind may be capable of generating. But now a growing collection of stolen and false survival memories quickly convince the drug user to deeply believe that this chemical gives them their edge, helps them cope, relieve stress, defines who they are, and that life without it may not be worth living. Soon, they can no longer recall the beauty of life without it.

Nicotine alters synaptic activity of cholinergic, noradrenergic, dopaminergic and serotonergic systems. It rewires and desensitizes the now addicted brain causing it to grow millions of extra receptors in at least eleven different regions. Over time, the enslaved mind is forced to puff a little harder, hold the smoke a bit longer or smoke another, in order to satisfy gradually increasing levels of nicotine tolerance.

The addicted brain is now fully wired to function with nicotine and any attempt to stop using it may result in an emotional train wreck that peaks in intensity within 72 hours. The recovering brain quickly works to restore natural sensitivities, the bulk of which occurs within a couple of weeks. But just one powerful puff, dip or chew of nicotine and the recovering addict must again endure another three day train wreck, another 72 hours of nicotine detox, a feat few humans have the stamina to endure.

Ready to end the lies? Ready to come home? To learn more about nicotine dependency recovery visit WhyQuit, the Internet's most popular "nicotine cessation" forum.

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Written October 3, 2007 and updated June 7, 2015 by John R. Polito