There is no doubt that nicotine is extremely physically addictive. Some people consider it just as addictive as heroin or opiates. No one will argue that once you’re hooked on nicotine from smoking that you won’t suffer physical withdrawal symptoms, however unlike with drugs, the withdrawal symptoms are much, much less severe.
How it Works
Once you introduce nicotine into your system, it immediately starts affecting certain chemical processes that send signals to your brain. As smoke carries the nicotine further into your body, you body begins to rely on it. What is even worse is that once your body adjusts to a certain level of nicotine being in your system, it begins to want more of it, which increases your physical and psychological dependence. This is the reason why many people may start out smoking on a few cigarettes a day and turn into two to three packs a day chain smokers. Nicotine addiction escalates the longer you use the drug.
The Vicious Circle
Your lungs, your brain, your circulatory system and even your hormones are all affected by nicotine. Even though you know you’re damaging your body, and you can likely feel the effects, the longer you use nicotine the harder it becomes to quit. Nicotine causes the brain to release endorphins that make you feel good just like exercise does. In fact, your brain comes to rely on nicotine-related endorphins and the severe mood swings people go through when they try to quit smoking usually drives them to light up again. The fact that your body is so used to “getting high” makes it that much harder for you to quit.
Quitting smoking is especially difficult because there are physical and psychological components to the withdrawal. Even after you crush out your last cigarette, nicotine resides in your system for up to a week. Most people say the first three to four days of withdrawal are the worst. Symptoms vary from person to person, but common complaints are restlessness, headaches, and bad mood swings. Additionally, you have to break habits like having a cigarette after meals and get used to not having a cigarette in your hand. Many people find lollipops or chewing gum helpful for the psychological withdrawal to help with that “missing something feeling” they get from not smoking. Unfortunately, the only cure for the physical withdrawal is time.
Breaking the nicotine cycle is a challenge, but it is not impossible. Millions of people quit smoking every year. You may have to try several times before you finally quit, but that is a part of the process. Keep trying and eventually you can break the cycle of addiction for good.
About the Author: Loralee Anable works in a healthcare clinic and counsels people who want to quit smoking on a regular basis. She is currently looking into moving into diagnostic medicine and is reading sites like http://www.ultrasoundtechnician.info to find out if a career in ultrasound is right for her!