Nicotine addiction

Tobacco smoking originated as a habit among Native Americans 1,500 years ago in western North America. Tobacco was brought to Europe after the colonization of America a few hundred years ago. It became a world spread habit. And now there are 1.1 billion of smokers around the world. Luckily, people have realized that smoking has a lot of negative effects on health. Since then the number of smokers started to decrease, especially in the developed countries. However, still 14 percent of all deaths in Europe are related to tobacco smoking.

There are 4000 of different chemical substances in tobacco products, 40 of them being extremely cancerogenic (cancer causing agents). Nicotine is one of these substances found in tobacco products. It is a psychotropic stimulant and an agent, which causes euphoria. People may develop both physical and psychological dependency and addiction to nicotine. Some research has been made to find out that nicotine actually stimulates and causes the feeling of relaxation at the same time.

Nicotine has been proved to be as addictive as any other drugs , such as heroin or cocaine. Addiction to nicotine develops in a short period of time. When a person starts to smoke, he or she smokes from 2 to 3 cigarettes a day, while after a few year period the same smoker consumes up to 50 cigarettes a day.

Psychological dependency depends very much upon the reasons why a person started to smoke. It is known that 70% of smokers have physical dependence to nicotine, while 15% of them have their first cigarette in the morning within five minutes when they wake up, and about 50% of smokers smoke their first cigarette within 30 minutes when they wake up in the morning.

Test yourself

There is a so called Fagerstroem test to check the stage of physical dependence of nicotine. It consists of 6 questions:

  1. When do you have your first cigarette in the morning after you wake up?
  2. Within 5 minutes 3 points
    After 6-30 minutes 2 points
    After 31-60 minutes 1 point
    After 1 hour 0

  3. Is it hard for you not to smoke in the non-smoking areas?
  4. Yes 1 point
    No 0

  5. Which cigarette is the hardest to refuse?
  6. The first one in the morning 1 point
    Any other 0

  7. How many cigarettes do you smoke a day?
  8. More than 31 3 points
    21-30 2 points
    11-20 1 point
    Less than 10 0

  9. Do you smoke more within the first hours when you wake up than you do later?
  10. Yes 1 point
    No 0

  11. Do you smoke when you are ill and stay in bed the biggest part of the day?
  12. Yes 1 point
    No 0

The points are added together to give the answer:

0-2 points – very small dependence

3-4 points – moderate dependence

5 points –   average dependence

6-7 points –  big dependence

8-10 points –  very big dependence

Nicotine is an addictive substance

The stage of physical and psychological dependency is very important when a person wants to quit smoking. Since nicotine is a very addictive substance, it is very hard for a smoker to quit the habit. And even if a smoker succeeds in quitting, only 7% of them do not restart after some time. Like Mark Twain said: “It is very easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it so many times.” The most important thing therefore is not to start smoking again.

As nicotine is an addictive substance, like any other addictive agents, it causes withdrawal symptoms after discontinuation of use. These symptoms may occur after about 8 hours after the last cigarette. The most common withdrawal symptoms caused by nicotine include anxiety, stress, irritability, depressed mood, sudden mood changes, restlessness, impaired sleep and difficulty in concentrating. A person may also have bigger appetite and therefore gain more weight. These withdrawal symptoms progress and are the biggest after 24-36 hours after the last cigarette consumed. They usually fade away within 2 weeks of last cigarette. Therefore it is extremely important to stay out of the habit for at least 2 weeks even though it is the hardest period to survive.

As with all addictive substances, the best and easiest way is to never start the habit in the first place. You should be aware that to some people even a single cigarette may be addictive. At first smoking is for social reasons whereas later smokers consume nicotine only to maintain a stable concentration of this substance in the bloodstream. Don’t you want to be different and say “No” to smoking?

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