The Addiction Behind Cigarette Smoking

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It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes are bad for your health. It’s the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. So, why do people continue to smoke despite the clear risks? The answer put is addiction.

What is Nicotine Addiction?

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that’s found in tobacco products. When you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain. There, it binds to receptors and causes a release of dopamine, which is a chemical that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

Over time, your brain becomes dependent on nicotine to function correctly. As a result, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and trouble concentrating when you try to quit smoking. These symptoms can be so severe that they make it difficult for people to stick to their quit attempt. Only a handful of people who try to quit smoking successfully do so without help.

How to Know You’re Addicted

If you find yourself smoking more than you intended, need to smoke to feel normal, or spend a lot of money on cigarettes, you’re likely addicted to nicotine. It’s important to recognize this addiction and seek help to quit.

Knowing the difference between usage, dependence, and addiction is also essential. Here’s a short rundown:

  • Usage: smoking occasionally or regularly.
  • Dependence: needing to smoke to feel normal and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
  • Addiction: inability to control your cigarette usage and to continue to smoke despite adverse consequences.

Comorbidities of Nicotine Addiction

Smoking addiction is comorbid with various diseases. Here are five of the most common:

Lung Disease

Among all the organs smoking can affect, the lungs are the most obvious. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and lung cancer are all significant smoking consequences.

Man Wearing Polo Shirt Holding Left Chest

Heart Disease

Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by damaging your blood vessels and raising your blood pressure and heart rate. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. This is the most dangerous comorbidity for smokers, as it’s the leading cause of death in the country.

Diabetes

Smoking can affect how your body responds to insulin, making it harder to control blood sugar levels and increasing the risk of diabetes.

Oral Health Problems

Not only does smoking stain your teeth, but it’s also linked to gum disease and tooth loss. That’s why smokers are urged to visit their local dental clinic once they start to smoke frequently. It can help alleviate some of the problems caused by smoking on their oral health. It might even help with stopping their smoking.

Fertility Issues

Smoking can cause infertility and make it harder to conceive in both men and women. It can also affect a pregnant woman’s health and lead to problems in the baby, such as low birth weight.

Smoking is a severe problem in the United States. Thankfully, there are some ways to prevent it from getting worse. Here are four five treatment options for someone who is addicted to smoking.

Therapy

Smoking is often related to stress or other underlying mental health issues. Participating in therapy can help address these issues and provide coping mechanisms to prevent smoking triggers. Here are three of the most common forms of treatment:

CBT

Your cognitive thoughts play a fundamental role in smoking addiction. Participating in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify and change negative thoughts contributing to smoking.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing helps increase your motivation to quit smoking by exploring and resolving ambivalence toward stopping. It also helps set achievable goals for the future.

Group Therapy

Being surrounded by a supportive group of individuals who are also trying to quit can improve your chances of successfully quitting smoking. It can also provide an outlet for sharing experiences, challenges, and victories during the quitting process.

Medications

Several FDA-approved medications are available to help with nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms during the quitting process. Some examples include nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline, and bupropion.

Support Groups

Joining a support group can provide encouragement and accountability to stay on track with quitting smoking. Organizations like Nicotine Anonymous offer in-person and online support groups for those trying to stop.

Alternative Methods

Alternative methods are also available for quitting smoking, such as acupuncture or hypnosis. These can be used alone or with therapy, medication, and support groups. It’s important to discuss using alternative methods with your healthcare provider before starting them.

Quitting smoking is challenging, but improving your health and reducing the risk of severe comorbidities is worth it. If you or someone you know is addicted to smoking, consider seeking help from healthcare professionals and support groups to quit. Together, we can decrease the negative impact of tobacco on our health and society.

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