|If you've ever tried to quit smoking, then you've come up against the awesome power of nicotine addiction. If you would like to quit, read on to learn how nicotine addiction takes hold, and how you can defeat it.
Altered Brain Chemistry
Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco, is absorbed into the bloodstream where it affects brain chemistry. It quickly alters both mood and focus. Because of the large surface area of the lungs, smokers receive a big "hit" of nicotine with every puff. Since nicotine is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, the brain receives an almost instantaneous dose of pleasure with every inhalation of smoke.
Nicotine primarily affects the mid-brain, the part of the brain that controls moods and emotions. It produces pleasurable sensations while smoking, and anxiety and craving when nicotine is withheld. Doesn't that sound like a perfect formula for addiction?
Because of the immediate stimulation to the brain, smoking behavior is constantly reinforced. When smokers try to quit, they have to overcome both the physical addiction to nicotine and the associations they have made to the behavior. This means breaking the mental connection between the physical act of picking up, lighting, and smoking the cigarette, and the pleasurable sensations it produces.
Besides the physical addiction, there are also strong behavioral and social reinforcements to smoking. Certain situations (such as experiencing stress, finishing a meal, or going to a bar) become so strongly associated with smoking that smokers will automatically reach for a cigarette without thinking.
However, some people become more addicted to nicotine than others. The reason for this may be genetic. Some people metabolize nicotine more slowly, which makes them less likely to become addicted. There is a particular enzyme present in the liver that breaks down nicotine. People with a genetic "flaw" in producing the enzyme are less likely to smoke, and if they do smoke, they smoke fewer cigarettes than those with the normal enzyme.
There may also be genetic reasons related to behavior that encourage smoking addiction. Reaction to stress, for example, can be partially genetically determined -- and stress relief is 1 of the major reasons people smoke.
Anyone Can Quit
People who are addicted to smoking can take solice in knowing that it is possible to quit. Although some find it more difficult than others, there are many resources available to anyone who wants to give up the habit. Help is available in the form of nicotine replacement, other medical treatments, group therapy, and counseling. It is not just the physical addiction to nicotine that must be overcome. The urge to smoke is driven by many associations (food, sex, alcohol) that were developed over years. Those individual habit patterns must also be defeated.
Age Is No Barrier
As with any addictive substance, the longer you have used nicotine, the more difficult it will be to break free. Young adults who have been smoking for just a few years will likely find it easier to quit than a middle-aged person with a 20 year habit. On the other hand, a middle-age smoker is more likely to feel susceptible to the health risks of smoking, which may create a stronger motivation to break the habit.
Regardless of age, or number of years of smoking, anyone can quit and regain the health benefits of being a non-smoker. It is easier now than ever before with the widespread availablility of addiction aids and rehab programs. Don't you think it's time for YOU to quit smoking for good?
About the author:
Ron King is a full-time researcher, writer, and web developer. Visit http://www.stop-smoking-review.comfor more info.
Copyright 2005 Ron King. This article may be reprinted if the resource box is left intact.
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