Student Warning: nicotine addiction
can be quick and permanent
If someone offers you nicotine, they are not a friend. Friends don't enslave friends.
All experts agree, nicotine is highly addictive. But what does "highly" and "addictive" mean?
"Addictive" means that the brain assigns nicotine use the same importance as eating food. "Highly" means that it may only take inhaling nicotine or sucking its juice one or two times before becoming unable to say “no” to doing so again and again, for the rest of your life.
Whether cigarettes, cigars, pipes, bidis, kreteks or e-cigarettes, most students become addicted to nicotine by inhaling it deep into their lungs. Once there, it crosses over into their bloodstream through millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. Others become slaves to smokeless nicotine released from dip, snus, chewing tobacco or the nicotine gum or lozenge. Smokeless nicotine enters the bloodstream by penetrating gum, cheek and mouth tissues.
Sadly, each year about half a million U.S. students become slaves to daily nicotine use. Their addiction is as real and permanent as alcoholism. There is no cure. Once hooked, the best they can hope for is to successfully navigate withdrawal, arrest their chemical dependency and remain on probation for the rest of their life.
And breaking free while toying with replacement nicotine isn't nearly as easy or common as sham Nicorette commercials suggest. Nicorette has been for sale here in the U.S. for 29 years, since 1984. Although billions have been spent advertising it, a July 31, 2013 Gallup Poll found that only 1 in 100 successful ex-smokers credit nicotine gum for their success.
What does it feel like to be addicted?
Think back to the last time that you badly wanted to eat food. The wanting, urges and craves you felt were generated by your brain's dopamine pathways. Your brain's survival circuitry, it is the job of your dopamine pathways to not only generate wanting and urges, but to make thoughts of not eating food almost unthinkable.
That is the same dopamine pathway wanting felt by the nicotine addict, the alcoholic and the heroin or cocaine addict. Half of adult cigarette smokers do not smoke themselves to death because they are stupid. They do so because they have a brain wanting disorder, a mental illness in which their brain makes thoughts of ending use of smoked nicotine as unthinkable to them as ending food use is to you.
While you may feel wanting and urges to eat food a couple of times daily, the number of times that the nicotine addict feels the need to use nicotine often gradually increases over time to 5, 10, 15 and then 20 or more times, each and every day. It's called tolerance.
How would addiction to e-cigarettes change your life?
Some issues are obvious. Each and every day you'd spend money for more nicotine, throwing away thousands upon thousands of dollars. If it takes an average of five minutes per nicotine feeding, and you need 12 feedings per day, you would waste an hour of your life per day feeding a never-ending need for more.
Nicotine stimulates the body's nervous system, activating its impulsive fight or flight survival response. It would make your heart pound up to 18 beats per minute faster. It means that you might never again experience deep, true and prolonged relaxation. It would result in reduced control over your impulses, with greater difficulty making well-reasoned and thoughtful decisions.
It would also mean that stressful situations would become even more stressful. How? The body's urine turns more acidic when we get stressed. The more acidic the addict's urine becomes, the quicker the alkaloid nicotine is eliminated from their bloodstream. It would mean adding the onset of early nicotine withdrawal atop every stressful situation life throws your way.
It's why the nicotine addict reaches for nicotine instead of a jack when their tire goes flat. They are forced to service their addiction first. It's why the addicted student often finds themselves thinking about using nicotine instead of the correct answer during stressful tests.
When you see a friend or fellow student smoking, vaping, dipping or chewing, you are likely looking at a "real" drug addict in every sense. It's likely that they have very little understanding of their brain wanting disorder and why they continue to use.
The purpose of this article has been to give you a brief glimpse of what it means to become nicotine's slave. The good news is that so long as all nicotine remains on the outside it is impossible to get hooked. The bad news is that many products claiming to be nicotine-free actually contain nicotine, most recently five brands of e-cigarette canisters that were labeled nicotine-free.
Visit WhyQuit.com to learn more about nicotine addiction, to watch nicotine addicts as they navigate early withdrawal, or to read tragic stories of addicts who died young, such as Sean, Noni, Bryan, Deb and Quintin.
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- WhyQuit.com - WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting, the stop smoking method used by the vast majority of all successful long-term ex-smokers.
- Nicotine Addiction 101 - WhyQuit's basic guide to understanding nicotine dependency.
- Nicotine Cessation Topic Index - An alphabetical subject matter index to more than a thousand nicotine cessation articles, videos and support group discussions.
- Joel's Library - Joel Spitzer began presenting stop smoking clinics and seminars in 1976. WhyQuit's education director since 2000, Joel's Library is home to his life's work. It includes Joel's "Daily Quitting Lesson Guide," more than 100 original stop smoking articles, his free ebook "Never Take Another Puff," and to his ever growing collection of more than 400 stop smoking videos.
- "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" - Written by John R. Polito, a former 30-year heavy smoker and WhyQuit's 1999 founder, Freedom from Nicotine shares the science underlying nicotine dependency and successful abrupt nicotine cessation.
- Turkeyville - Imagine surrounding yourself with more than 10,000 cold turkey quitters. Turkeyville is a Facebook support group exclusively for cold turkey quitters.
- Freedom - Freedom was WhyQuit's original 1999 stop smoking support group. No longer accepting members, its 453,000 archived posts continue to share recovery insights.