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Nicotine Dependency

03.11.2017 - Addiction

The facts and figures on tobacco use and its consequences are mind blowing. Let me just give you one simple fact to start off this article….

Tobacco kills up to half of its users.

Let me put that another way: if you smoke then it’s like a toss of a coin as to whether it will kill you are not. Those are short odds when it comes to your life. This message is beginning to get through. Figures are showing a decline in the number of smokers globally. Having said that there are still around one billion people smoking in the World today. Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death of the planet.

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the World. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times” Mark Twain

So what is it about tobacco that makes it take hold so quickly and to be so hard to shift?

Each time a person inhales on a cigarette the nicotine starts to work on the balance of two key chemical. These are noradrenaline and dopamine. They contribute to our ability to concentrate and to our overall mood. These changes are almost instant, and many people find the effect more than agreeable. Now factor in that each cigarette is between 8 to 16 inhalations. Each inhalation works it’s magic on the brain. The smoker gets a positive feeling and this enjoyment leads the smoker to repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Then as with all addictive processes tolerance builds. You need to smoke more to get the effect. And withdrawal effects are experienced when you do not smoke.

Withdrawal is both physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behaviour. Emotionally, the smoker may feel like they’ve lost their best friend. All of these factors must be addressed for the quitting process to work.

Those who have smoked regularly for a few weeks or longer will have withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using tobacco or greatly reduce the amount they smoke. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of the last cigarette and peak about 2 to 3 days later when most of the nicotine and its by-products are out of the body. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to up to several weeks; and they will get better every day that you stay smoke-free.

At the Kusnacht Practice, we treat nicotine dependence like addiction to any other drug. Our goal for a nicotine addicted client is long term abstinence. We identify and treat the psychological and physical aspects of nicotine addiction. This normally involves biochemical imbalances also psychological and behavioural issues. Additionally, we want to prevent weight gain (smoking cessation often leads to weight gain of 3 to 5 % of body weight) and the client to be able to manage feelings that were medicated with nicotine.

The fear of weight gain can be a real block to taking the step of stopping smoking, so we make sure the food and exercise regime are carefully managed to avoid this. From a behavioural perspective, we focus on developing tools and strategies to manage and cope with the situations and feelings that may trigger cravings for nicotine. We will also help you to develop your motivation to remain cigarette free.

Don’t wait until it is too late. Often by the time smoking becomes a serious medical issue, it is too late to reverse the effects.

Author: Dean Gustar - Head of Clinical Operations, The Kusnacht Practice