Nicotine is a compound found in tobacco, which is a plant that has been growing in the Americas for thousands of years, and was introduced by the Indians to the Europeans during the invasion of the new world. Nicotine, one of the many compounds released when the tobacco leaf is chewed or smoked, is absorbed through the lungs, or mucous membranes (e.g., lining the mouth, nose, vagina, eyes). Nicotine can also be absorbed through the skin. After being absorbed, nicotine molecules enter the blood stream and travel to the brain where they have a profound effect on the chemistry of the brain. Once in the brain, nicotine stimulates the release of chemicals known as neurotransmitters (e.g., Dopamine), which not only has physiological effects, but also can produce a state of euphoria or elated moods. With repeated use of nicotine, the body and the mind become addicted to the effects. After addiction has occurred, a tolerance level develops, which causes the need for more of the drug to achieve the same effects.
- Stopping the drug will produce a withdrawal state (i.e., irritability, sweating, rapid heart rate, tremors, Insomnia, nausea, Anxiety, Depression, and even Seizures). Taking more nicotine can stop the withdrawal. Once addiction has set in, it can interfere with the users health, occupation and recreational activities. Efforts to cut down or quit are often depressing, making the individual feel powerless against the drug. The truth is that people have quit successfully, and there are now more ways than before to detox and recover successfully. Addiction is a disease, and like other diseases, it can be dealt with successfully.
- When deciding on quitting, one must be prepared with a plan of attack. The best scenario is to work with a physician and a professional team (therapist, psychologist etc.). One must first be ready and aware that the habit is harmful to one's own health and family's health. Once this realization sets in (hopefully before cancer, heart disease, Emphysema has occurred), the person may be ready to take the next step. These steps may include choosing set dates for starting the process and complete cessation of the habit (e.g., allow yourself 3 weeks to quit). The addict should start by reducing cigarettes or chewing tobacco by small amounts every day (do not go back too previous dosage), improve diet (less red meats, les fatty foods, more fish, fluids, vegetables, fruits, vitamins, minerals), and regular exercise. Avoid situations where smoking was part of the activity (e.g., clubs, cafes etc.) and replace the bad habit with good habits (exercise etc.). Choose a time with reduced stress or Anxiety such as vacation time (do not attempt to quit when so many stressful situations are going on). A successful medical program resembles a seesaw, in that when one stops smoking, and the amount of nicotine through the smoke (the very hot smoke and carbon compounds are much more toxic to the body than nicotine as a chemical) is being reduced everyday, it affects the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Medications that can provide nicotine in the inhaled from (Nicotrol inhaler), a gum (Nicorette) or a skin Patch (Nicoderm CQ) along with other medications that can reduce Anxiety, Insomnia, Depression and craving (e.g., Zyban) can help one to land softly. Acupuncture and herbs (e.g., valerian root) and chewing sugarless gum may also be of help. Ask your doctor for the best program for you and remember that if you relapse, do not give up. Study the relapse, and use experience learned to continue the battle and you will be victorious.