Smoking Addiction

Why is smoking so addictive?

Initially, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite. However, regular doses of nicotine lead to changes in the brain, which then results in nicotine withdrawal symptoms when nicotine is cut. Going back to smoking temporarily reduces these symptoms. Hence, this behaviour of going back to reduce withdrawal symptoms reinforces the habit of smoking, showing how most smokers become nicotine dependent and addicted to smoking.

 

Risk factors

   Stress

Some people smoke to relieve stress. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, hence feeding onto the false belief that it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling is temporary and soon after, individuals will face withdrawal symptoms.

 

   Depression

Adults with depression are twice as likely to smoke as adults without depression. Most people start to smoke before showing signs of depression, so it’s unclear whether smoking leads to depression or depression encourages people to start smoking. It’s most likely that there is a complex relationship between the two.

 

   Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia are three times more likely to smoke than other people and tend to smoke more heavily. It’s likely this is because people with schizophrenia use smoking to control or manage some of the symptoms associated with their illness and reduce some of the side effects of their medication.

 

Causes

An addiction to nicotine, also known as nicotine dependence or tobacco dependence, often begins in the teen years. Most people who smoke have friends or family members who also smoke.

 

Why do young adults start smoking?

Research suggests that college students who smoke are more likely to believe that smoking provides emotional benefits and enhanced body image, which may be driven by media portrayals of young, beautiful influencers who smoke. They also tend to underestimate the harms of smoking. These reasons may help fuel the decision to begin smoking or prevent them from trying to quit.

 

Consequences of smoking

   Changes to the brain

Nicotine acts on acetylcholine receptors in the brain, which help to control attention and memory. Nicotine also boosts levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine and the hormone adrenaline. Eventually the brain becomes accustomed to these changes, so when people attempt to stop smoking, they can experience symptoms of withdrawal such as cravings, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and irritability.

 

   Mental Health

Smoking may boost mental health in the short term, but it can be harmful in the long term by exacerbating stress, anxiety, and depression.

 

Ways to help you quit

   Prepare for change

Think about life after quitting. Think about the benefits quitting will bring about such as having more money, better physical health, etc.

 

   Get support from family and friends

Stopping smoking can be easier with the support of family and friends. If those around you smoke, encourage them not to smoke around you.

 

   Find other ways to cope with stress

If you use smoking to cope with stress, find other ways to deal with it. Examples of activities which might help are meditation and breathing exercises.

 

   Nicotine replacement therapy and medication

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), anti-depressants and other medication have all been shown to help smokers without mental health problems to stop smoking and they may also be helpful for people with depression or schizophrenia. E-cigarettes can also be considered as they are much safer than cigarettes and can help people stop smoking.

 

   Talking therapies

Individual, group or telephone counselling can help people stop smoking. Talking therapies can help people change their behaviour by thinking and acting more positively towards the idea of quitting.

 

   Be prepared for withdrawal symptoms

You may experience headaches, nausea, irritability, anxiety, craving cigarettes, feeling miserable, difficulty in concentrating, increased appetite and drowsiness. Drinking more fresh fruit juice or water, eating more high fibre foods and reducing caffeine and refined sugar in your diet can all help you cope with withdrawal symptoms

 

Watch the video attached to find out what happens to the body once an individual quits smoking!

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