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Student Warning: nicotine addiction
can be quick and permanent

September 17, 2013   John R. Polito

If someone offers you nicotine, they are not a friend. Friends don't enslave friends.

Rachel is an 18 year-old College of Charleston student whose message to children and teens is that she's hooked on smoking nicotine.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.

Iris's message is simple.  I've smoked for three years and now I can't run and I can't breathe.

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?

A smoker since age 15 from Columbia, SC, Reggie's message is to not start smoking.  He has tried quitting 4 times and failed.  He is a pack-a-day Newport smoker 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.

Brittney's youth smoking prevention message - Don't listen to peer pressure 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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Written 09/17/13.
Reformatted 08/19/18 by John R. Polito