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All About Smoking Addiction

Myaddiction.com states that 1 out of every 10 adults throughout the world is a smoker. They go on to note that tobacco use kills more Americans every year than World War II and the Vietnam War put together. This makes smoking addiction a serious problem not only in the United States, but throughout the world.smoking addiction

Since smoking doesn’t produce the same type of intoxicated or abnormal behavior that is often witnessed in those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, people may underestimate the addictive power of smoking. Because the outward behavior exhibited is not as extreme doesn’t mean that the addiction is not as intense. According to the American Cancer Society addiction to the nicotine in cigarettes may make it more difficult to stop smoking than to stop using drugs such as heroin or cocaine. The following information describes why smoking is so addictive, the physical and mental aspects of addiction, how an individual becomes addicted, and some of the statistics and facts related to smoking addictions.

Why Is Smoking Addictive? *

When trying to understand what makes smoking addictive it’s important to look at the problem from a scientific perspective.  The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK states that nicotine actually alters the chemicals in the brain. It affects specific chemicals such as noradrenaline and dopamine. These chemical changes affect an individual’s mood and even their level of concentration. These sensations and moods are enjoyable for most smokers. Nicotine brings about feelings of pleasure and it reduces anxiety and stress. Nicotine immediately goes to the brain after inhaling, so these effects take place very quickly. This is what is referred to as the nicotine rush. Smokers become dependent on this easy and quick rush.

After people have been smoking for several years the addiction will only become stronger and the habit more ingrained in their lives. Evidence of how addictive smoking continues to be can be seen by the number of smokers who actually want to quit but can’t seem to be able to. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 7 out of every 10 adult smokers in the United States have reported that they want to quit smoking completely.

What Are the Differences Between Physical and Mental Addiction? *

Most individuals who are addicted to smoking are addicted on both a physical and psychological level. There may be, however, one area that has a stronger pull depending on the individual. Understanding exactly why a person is addicted to smoking may help that person break the addiction. It’s important to understand the differences between a physical and psychological addiction.  According to quitday.org physical addiction starts when nicotine enters the brain and is absorbed by the receptors in the brain. This causes a substance known as dopamine to be released. The release of dopamine brings about a feeling of calm or happiness. As smoking continues, an increase in nicotine receptors is created in the brain. This results in more nicotine being needed to bring about the same feelings of happiness and calm. When the nicotine flow is stopped, stress and anxiety will be the result. This is the process of physical addiction.

Mental or emotional addiction involves feelings, people, and even rituals that are associated with smoking. An example would be someone who smokes every evening while enjoying dinner with their spouse. Smoking during this time becomes associated with the love and affection that person may feel for their spouse. Depending upon the individual, sometimes psychological addiction can be harder to break than physical addiction. While there are medications available that can help with the physical addiction involving receptors in the brain, there aren’t any medicines available to help with emotional or psychological attachments.

How Does a Person Become Addicted to Smoking? *

There are lots of reasons people begin smoking and ultimately become addicted. Some people, especially teenagers, may start smoking to fit in with other young people their age or because they think it looks cool. Some young people smoke because they may believe it will help them to stay thin. Whatever the reason they start, research has shown that many of them mistakenly believe that they can just quit smoking anytime they choose. According to the website, The Real Cost, 3 out of 4 teenagers who smoke believe they’ll stop smoking in a few years, but don’t. Addiction can more easily occur in teenagers. Since their brain is still developing, they are more vulnerable to the addictive effects of nicotine.

smoking addictionAddictionblog.org lists 10 reasons why people start smoking. Interestingly, the number one reason cited is not peer pressure or to be cool, but because family attitudes condone smoking. Parents, grandparents, or siblings in the family are likely smokers and smoking is either directly or indirectly accepted. This means that family intervention at a young age could have a major impact on future smoking addictions. The second reason stated was peer pressure, followed by social factors and environmental issues. The 5th reason was attributed to personality traits and number 6 was due to poor social skills. The remaining reasons for smoking were for weight loss, the availability of cigarettes, because they were using other drugs, and for stress relief.

What Are Some Smoking Addiction Facts? *

BeTobaccoFree.gov lists several interesting facts regarding smoking addiction. Of every 10 smokers, 9 of them begin before they are 18. It’s also believed that 98 percent of all smokers begin by the time they are 26. While most people understand the negative effects of smoking on their health, especially regarding heart, brain, and lung health, there are other lesser known areas of health that cigarette smoking affects. A smoking addiction can also affect fertility in both men and women. Since smoking affects the blood flow necessary for an erection, it can be a cause of erectile dysfunction.

The United States falls somewhere in the middle when listing countries from the most smokers to the least. The Eastern European countries have the most smokers per population. The Washington Post reported that Serbia has the highest rate of smoking while Russia came in at number 4. South Korea and Japan also have high rates of smoking. People living in Sub-Saharan Africa have some of the lowest smoking rates in the world. Many countries are making strides toward reducing smoking addiction among their citizens. The Australian Government Department of Health has reported a steady decline in the number of adult smokers since 1991. Those who smoked daily that were 18 or older were 25 percent of the population in Australia in 1991. By 2013 that number had dropped to just over 13 percent.

How Can Someone Break a Smoking Addiction? *

Considering how strong an addiction to smoking can be, it is very difficult for most people to stop smoking. The American Cancer Society lists several withdrawal symptoms that can happen when people try to quit smoking.  A few of these include anxiety, depression, weight gain, sleep disturbances, headaches, and restlessness. These symptoms are what can drive individuals back to smoking. As difficult as it may be to break the addiction, it is possible and there are several methods that can be used.

Helpguide.org lists several methods that can be used to help a person break their nicotine addiction and stop smoking for good.  While quitting cold turkey is difficult, abruptly giving up cigarettes does work for some individuals. Other people may find that a slow tapering off works best for them. Some people may find that reducing their intake of nicotine until they are ready to have that last cigarette will enable them to ultimately break their addiction. Nicotine patches and gum are other types of methods that many people use. Sometimes it takes the strength of prescription medications to break the addiction. Finally, some individuals turn to behavioral or motivational therapies to help them stop smoking. It’s important to understand that it may take several tries using a variety of methods to ultimately break the addiction.



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