Why is Smoking So Addictive?

People can get addicted to almost anything – a sport, a hobby, certain foods and drinks, thought patterns, or work. We can also get addicted – the right word is “obsessed” – with a person, such as when we go after a celebrity or any person in a cult-like fashion. Addiction is often viewed negatively, as it poses threats to the individuals and his or her family. Daily routines are disrupted, relationships are strained, mental state is distorted, and the physical health is put in danger. Where there are addiction problems, victims and families are often suffering in one way or another and are seeking help (or at least trying to).

One of the most common forms of addiction is smoking addiction. Men, women, young, old, educated and non-educated, are all vulnerable to this type of addiction. It is spurred by tobacco companies’ advertisements and subtle endorsement of the habit. The image portrayed is confidence and “coolness” by smoking; the message sent is independence. Despite health warnings from governments, people “buy into” the idea and disregard long-term health over short-term impulses.

That may be what get’s people started, but what is behind the addiction in smoking cigarettes or tobacco? Why is it so difficult to overcome? Well, the main culprit in smoking addiction is nicotine, the main substance in found in tobacco leaves. Tobacco can be smoked in the forms of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. There is about 10 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette stick, and you get about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette smoked. Just how dangerous is nicotine? Well, a drop of it in a pure state is enough to kill a person. When you smoke, chew, or sniff tobacco, you are sending the substance to your brain. The brain adapts to and develops a tolerance for nicotine, starting the onset of the long and often difficult disease that many people (and their families) suffer from – addiction.

Just what happens inside the brain when nicotine is introduced? Nicotine triggers the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, two substances in the brain. The brain checks the levels of these substances and makes adjustments when necessary. When there is too much release of these chemicals, the brain’s “anti-nicotine” chemicals make you feel tired or depressed. This feeling, of course, drives you to smoke even more, causing a vicious cycle that characterizes addiction.

The tired or depressed feelings, along with a host of other feelings and situations, is called a “trigger.” Triggers then are feelings and situations that nudge or drive you to smoke, and are different for everyone. It can be the smell of a cigarette, the sight of cigarette butts or an ashtray, certain foods and drinks, social gatherings, the appeal of an “after dinner smoke”, or stressful situations. Feelings, both positive and negative, can trigger smoking.

It is often very difficult to quit smoking as what many people would attest. How much success you will have often depends on several factors like the length of time you have been smoking, your access to tobacco, and the kind of people you spend time with. If you are serious about breaking the smoking addiction, you will definitely need help.

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