Nicotine is addictive and dependence producing. Smoking tobacco is perhaps the most widely accepted practice of drug abuse in society. It is a practice most have grown up with. The use of tobacco is something people learn – not something inherited as a basic part of their existence. I dare say nobody ever enjoyed the first inhaled smoke from a cigarette, or the first chew of tobacco. Everyone learns to like the effect of inhaled tobacco smoke or develop a taste for tobacco. Learning to use tobacco can be unlearned. Breaking nicotine dependency is not easy. Many smokers will appreciate the sentiment, “I am either going to quit – or quit quitting.” The old saying is, “Quitting is easy – I’ve done it thousands of times.” But it is far from easy.
Nicotine is the number one addictive substance in terms of simple numbers. While many smokers are breaking the dependency, still among young people there is an increasing number of them becoming “hooked.” Anyone who tries to break any addictive dependency faces statistics that are not promising. Most psychologists report that among those who try to quit tobacco there is an 80 percent rate of what they call “relapse.” Psychologist Saul Shiffman of the University of Pittsburg was quoted as saying, “Relapses are the bugaboo of every quitter.” (Reader's Digest, October 1989, page 165).
The best way to really quit nicotine abuse is “cold turkey.” There are medicines, hypnotic sessions, chemical patches, and group therapy that may be effective to some degree, but in the final analysis the nicotine addict must make a definite commitment to quit. It might help one to realize just how harmful nicotine is to the human body. Consider some of the following facts about tobacco itself.
The tobacco plant consists of starches, proteins, sugar, and hydrocarbons. When these are burned they are then changed into a complex aerosol mixture of gases and particulate matter. Particulates are the extremely small solids found in tobacco smoke, primarily nicotine and tar. When a person lights up a cigarette about 2000 compounds are generated. The temperature of the ignited tobacco reaches 900 degrees centigrade. The smoke is cooled to about 45 degrees by the time it enters the mouth. In the smoke there are such gases as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.
Carbon monoxide is the toxic element in the smoke. Carbon monoxide causes a decrease in the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen to the body. Chemists have also isolated nitrosamines, vinyl chloride, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and pyridine in a normal drag on a cigarette. Smokers, think about just before you light the next cigarette.
The small particles in cigarette smoke are irritants to the respiratory system. Nicotine and tar make up the bulk of these particulates. These are the elements of tobacco smoke that remain in the lungs. I remember blowing cigarette smoke through a white cloth. It leaves a permanent yellow stain. Tobacco tar is a yellow-brownish sticky mass that is known as a cancer producing agent. That agent is particularly known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH).
Nicotine is a slick and odorless drug. Research shows that nicotine triggers the release of catecholamines into the human body. These are the elements that trigger a very quick but temporary stimulation when one lights up and inhales the smoke. But there is more than that temporary satisfaction going on. Doctors have shown that nicotine in the human body causes an increased rate of pulse and blood pressure. It causes the heart to work much harder by constricting the blood vessels. This lowers the temperature of the skin, increases digestive actions, and increases breathing rate.
Another motivation to quit for health reasons is seen in undeniable statistics. Death due to cancer is much higher in smokers than in non-smokers. Among smokers 30% more women die of cancer than men. Those who smoke and also contract heart trouble have a higher death rate than those who also contract heart problems but do not smoke. Smoking women put an unborn child in danger for three reasons at least.
· First, babies born to smoking mothers weigh less than babies from non-smoking mothers.
· Second, there is an increased risk of fetal death, placental disorders, bleeding early or late in pregnancy, and premature birth.
· Third, smoking mothers increase the risk of “sudden infant death syndrome.”
These and may other reasons should cause anyone who has any kind of drug dependency to stop and think. Think what you do to yourself, to your families, and associates. And the way to total recovery is always possible.
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