By Dr. Geneva M. Edwards
Cigarette smoke kills approximately 400,000 people every year in the United States, and 50,000 non-smokers die yearly from second-hand smoke. Tobacco usage is addictive because it affects the pathway in the brain that releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. Cigarette smoking is associated with relaxation, releasing stress, etc. There are some people who only smoke when they are out socializing, others may only smoke when they are drinking alcohol, and then there are others who may smoke more when they are socializing and/ or drinking alcohol. These patterns of behavior exhibit addiction.
Many people believe that nicotine is associated with a chronic lung disease called emphysema or associated with only one cancer, lung cancer. However, on the contrary nictoine is linked to other cancers, such as cancer of the bladder, cervix, kidney, pancreas, and stomach. Nicotine is also associated with leukemia. This association is due to the fact that cigarettes contain an organic chemical called “benzene“, which causes leukemia. So it is safe to say that cigarettes contain nicotine and therefore are detrimental to your health. Once inhaled, the toxic effects of nicotine flow throughout the bloodstream, and from the bloodstream throughout the entire body, damaging to major organs.
United States has over 45 million people who smoke cigarettes, including adults and adolescents. Among teenagers, smoking cigarettes is considered cool, a symbol of independence. They may feel that they can smoke cigarettes occasionally when out with their friends, etc. But what they don’t realize is that over 86% of teenagers who smoke at least one cigarette daily become addicted.
Once cigarette smoking is stopped, it will take the body approximately three months to accept the fact that it will no longer receive nicotine. The first two weeks of not smoking will be the most difficult, with the first forty-eight hours being the most profound with the presentation of physical signs of withdrawal.
Common Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal
Intense craving for nicotine
Increased appetite with weight gain
Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
Letting go of cigarettes is going to be challenging, and as with overcoming any addiction the body fights back. That’s what the symptoms of withdrawal are all about, the body fighting to hold on. And since smoking is associated with other behaviors it has become a tool to cope with stress. So the first thing you must realize is that you need to find a healthier way to cope effectively when confronted with stress, etc. Instead of turning to cigarettes for relaxation and relief, try turning to reading, writing in a journal, and or exercising. Some people may need assistance to help their body deal with the abstinence of nicotine. Over the counter medications are available to help with nicotine cravings, such as nicotine gum, nicotine patches, etc. Please keep in mind that these supplements may not interact well with other prescription drugs you may be on. Therefore it is imperative that you first talk with your healthcare professional for guidance.
Many people are afraid of weight gain, and yes when an individual stops smoking weight gain is inevitable. This is because nicotine speeds up the body’s metabolism. This is also because of the oral fixation associated with cigarette smoking. So if you aren’t putting a cigarette in your mouth you start putting food in your mouth. Also, it has been determined that foods taste so much better without nicotine because nicotine numb taste buds; overriding the taste of many foods. Keep in mind that weight gain doesn’t have to be permanent and is the lesser of the two evils. The battle of losing weight is much easier than the battle of cancer and other chronic diseases associated with nicotine use.
There are online websites that have been specifically designed to assist individuals in the process of quitting smoking. In Nashville Vanderbilt University has a resourceful online website providing information on tobacco cessation. There is also a Tennessee tobacco hotline available with more information and support for people who desire to quit smoking. The City of Nashville has a website available to help people quit smoking. Where there’s a will, there’s a way people! If you are serious about quitting smoking, or if you have a loved one or friend who you are concerned about because of their nicotine addiction, help is available.
A Successful Plan to Stop Smoking
First, you must be ready to surrender you addiction.
Second, you must believe that you are going to conquer your addiction
because of your desire to quit smoking and your belief in yourself.
Third, once you have established your goal to kick this habit; seek medical advice rom a healthcare professional to discuss treatment plan options, etc.
The key to getting help is reaching out and grasping it, and doing all you can do yourself. Don’t let nicotine destroy your life or the lives of loved-ones and friends. Please don’t fight this addiction alone! Reach out and ask for help you make the necessary changes in your life so you can maintain health and live longer!