To someone who has never smoked before, a smoking addiction may seem bizarre. With drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other addictions, users experience a high after engaging in the activity. With smoking, there are few benefits to tempt a user, but due to the addictive properties of nicotine, it doesn’t take much to get a smoker addicted.
Why people develop a smoking addiction
Some may enjoy the social behaviours related to smoking, the taste, or the rush that a cigarette provides, but the reason people develop a smoking addiction is due to the nicotine content. A smoking addict may not even enjoy smoking, but will still find it difficult to quit due to its addictive properties.
Nicotine alters the balance of two chemicals in the brain: dopamine and noradrenaline. When the levels of these chemicals change, it alters the mood and concentration levels of some users. The more addicts smoke, the more of a tolerance the brain develops to nicotine, meaning that they need to smoke more to experience the same feeling, thereby increasing the severity of the addiction and causing a further increase in health problems.
The dangers of a smoking addiction
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death in the UK with around 100,000 people dying a year from smoking, and many more living with smoking-related illnesses. While smoking leads to a considerable amount of long-term complications on the body, some side effects are immediate.
The dangerous chemicals in cigarettes increase the risk of developing over 50 severe health conditions. It is also the cause of around 90% of lung cancers and can cause cancer in many other parts of the body. Other conditions that smoking addicts will be at a higher risk of developing are:
- Coronary heart disease
- Cerebrovascular disease (a group of conditions that affect blood supply to the brain)
- Heart attack
- Peripheral vascular disease (a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries that restricts blood supply to leg muscles)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties)
Smoking can also worsen symptoms of pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and make respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold, much worse.
When an addict quits smoking, the benefits begin within 20 minutes of the last cigarette and will continue for years after. While people cannot reverse all smoking-related damage, addicts see a considerable increase in health after quitting. Due to the loss of nicotine in an addicts’ brain, temporary withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, easy irritability, and in some cases, even depression.
Like any other drug addiction, due to the chemical imbalances in the brain caused by the addiction, there are medical treatments that can help a user to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
It will be challenging for addicts to rid their lives of temptation completely, whether because of a stressful job, the smell of smoking, or the lifestyle change. To quit and remain smoke-free, users can use therapy to help them to cope with their urges. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying negative, irrational, or faulty thinking, and aids users to develop new rational ways of dealing with temptation.
For more information on the treatments services offered by Charterhouse Clinic for smoking addiction, please visit our smoking addiction treatment page.