Nicotine addiction is caused from prolonged exposure of body and mind to nicotine-rich products such as cigarettes.
Nicotine addiction holds vital body parts such as mouth, nose, brain, lungs, kidneys and liver under control. This results in serious nicotine cravings, the moment daily intake of nicotine is denied.
This renders the move to quit smoking extremely difficult and challenging. Whenever one decides to stop smoking, nicotine addiction unleashes a range of withdrawal symptoms that act as roadblocks to lead a tobacco -free life.
However, with the right blend of science, technology and nature, it is possible to steer clear of nicotine addiction and walk scot-free towards a healthy future.
The addictive chemical called nicotine
Nicotine has been known too well in the medical world for its addictive and pharmacokinetic properties that one can estimate the extent of agony that has to be undergone during smoking cessation.
Following are the basics that will give a sense of how this complex addiction mechanism works:
- Nicotine causes release of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter in the circuitry of brain. Increased dopamine levels in the rewards circuits of brain lead to the feeling of pleasure which gets people addicted.
- Prolonged nicotine exposure and dopamine release inflicts undesirable changes in the long-term brain functioning and increases physical dependence on nicotine.
- Controlling dopamine pathways and other vital neuro-chemicals is the way by which nicotine gets the brain addicted to smoking.
An average cigarette may contain anywhere between 10 to 15 milligrams of nicotine and with each cigarette smoked, the absorption of nicotine into lungs increases and finally, it snowballs into full-fledged addiction, making it impossible to stay away from lighting up cigarettes, even if one is fully aware of the consequences.
Handling nicotine addiction
Handling nicotine addiction is all about coping with the severe withdrawal symptoms that one experiences, when getting weaned out from tobacco based products like cigars, cigarettes etc.
The extent of addiction is reflected by the severity of nicotine cravings experienced. Various physical and mental complications are caused by way of nicotine withdrawal symptoms, as under:
- Difficulty to concentrate, dwindling focus levels
- Frustration, Anger and hopelessness
- Anxiety, Nervousness and attacks of guilt and insecurity
- Headaches, cough, cold and sore throat
- Discomfort in chest and respiratory track
- Nausea and Dizziness
- Digestive disorders and bowel movement related issues such as constipation and diarrhoea
- Increased appetite, carbohydrate intake and obesity
The list is not exhaustive and only provides an overview on the complexities involved in freedom from nicotine addiction.
Global awareness on nicotine addiction is on the increase and various smoking cessation programs are being conducted by health institutions for the benefits of smokers reeling under the stress of nicotine addiction.
Various therapeutic and non-therapeutic ways are available to kick the addiction away.
Challenging the so-called rewards of Nicotine
The basic controversy regarding any addiction is that, in order to keep people hooked on to the addiction, there must be something pleasurable in it.
If this is the case with smoking, what are pleasurable results or rewards? Well, the answer is simple. What people get from smoking is:
- A mood elevation, grounded not on practical facts, but based on dopamine release and manipulation of brain function
- Suppressed appetite leading to perfect weight management. The myth is busted by the fact that nicotine makes taste buds lifeless and nothing else other than tobacco tastes good.
- Weight loss can also be attributed to lowered insulin levels in bloodstream due to nicotine intake that reduces attraction to consume sugary food items, leading to weight loss.
- Increased focus. This is a make-believe positive effect that smokers claim to experience. When physical dependence on nicotine increases, the body is at rest and comfort only when the person smokes. Naturally, when mind and body are in comfort zone, concentration improves.
Understanding the irrationality of nicotine rewards is the first step towards ending the addiction.
Awareness of the fatal consequences of smoking and nicotine addiction is being popularized by both Government and Non-Government organizations, so that smokers experience in themselves, a willingness to change and stop nicotine addiction.
Eat and drink healthy
It would be over- ambitious to do away with nicotine withdrawal symptoms overnight. To deal sternly with nicotine addiction, keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay is inevitable. The best way to do this is by adopting a healthy diet.
- When a person decides to distance himself from nicotine and cuts down on cigarettes, the tendency to overeat crops up, since food tastes better.
- It is time to watch your waistline, or else, obesity will rip people off the confidence levels needed to challenge the addiction and may possibly threaten a relapse.
- Consume loads of fresh fruits and vegetable. Cut down on deep fried and cholesterol rich diet. Portion management is step one in weight management. Manage your portions of carbohydrate intake and ensure adequate quantities of proteins, fibre and vitamins also form part of your palate.
- Keep yourself hydrated, by drinking lots of water. Drink water at room temperature and avoid carbonated beverages and alcohol.
- Munching hard cum or candy will help keep mouth busy without giving into nicotine cravings and the urge to smoke
- Avoid or reduce caffeine intake by cutting down on coffee, tea and soda.
Keep afresh, your mind and body
To ward off nicotine cravings, it is important to keep busy, both on the physical and mental front. It is essential to keep good company and avoid hanging out with heavy smokers.
The following activities are recommended:
- Keep physically fit, by adhering to a simple fitness regime such as walking, jogging or swimming every day.
- Avoid loneliness and engage with well-wishers, relatives and friends. Whenever cravings attack, plan something that will keep you occupied, like visiting an old friend or walking your pet out, or even cooking something delicious for your family.
- Take up new and creative hobbies that will shift focus away from withdrawal symptoms.
- Meditation, Yoga and Self-introspection are good ways to take command of mind and steer it away from nicotine addiction.
- Expressing gratitude for the blessings in life, thanking people and praising them for help and celebrating even small victories are simple, yet effective gestures for invigorating the mind. A happy mind will never allow negative thoughts to creep in.
- Making a chart of the benefits of quitting smoking and reading them out aloud every morning exposes the mind to positive affirmations. Confidence and positivity will handhold smokers in the exercise of quitting smoking and also in avoiding a relapse.
- The mind needs to be reminded that cravings are merely short-lived attacks and the moments will simply pass by. Taking deep breaths and blowing out slowly through the mouth will help in managing cravings.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
One popular method to tone down and phase out nicotine addiction is the organized administration of pre-determined amounts of nicotine, in quantities not as fatal as in cigarettes.
This helps in meeting excessive craves for nicotine and tames withdrawal symptoms. The popularly used NRT methods are as under:
- Over the counter NRT products like Nicotine patches, gums and lozenges
- Products sold on prescription like Inhalers and Nasal Sprays
All the above products give small and steady doses of nicotine to help overcome cravings. The level of nicotine required to keep cravings from occurring, depends on the level of smoking habit, accustomed to.
Usually, to manage nicotine addictions, a combination of above products are used. The performance of NRT differs from person to person, as each smoker responds differently to different methods. NRT is not without its limitations.
Nausea, jaw pain and tiredness are often associated with prolonged usage. It is not advisable for pregnant women to expose themselves to NRT, since it is said to cause learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders in new born children.
However, the advantages outweigh the shortcomings and millions of smokers have found NRT as a tool that aids in relief from Nicotine addiction. The success rate improves when NRT is used in conjunction with other techniques like counselling and cognitive therapies.
Victories are victories, big or small. Every day counts in smoking cessation and every cigarette avoided is money and health saved.
Modern day quit-smoking applications track your progress and present the results in a dashboard. They also monitor physical activity and calories burnt per day, so that smokers need not get apprehensive about weight gain from nicotine withdrawal.
The apps facilitate sharing of victories and milestones achieved on social network. Sharing your success creates an environment of well-being and also triggers confidence for the oncoming months.
The rule of caution for smokers out there, is to get out of nicotine addiction at the earliest instance, before it’s too late.
The very origin of nicotine stands proof for the fact that its deadly. Nicotine is the natural protection used by the tobacco plants for killing insects and this killer instinct of the chemical is profound in cigarettes.