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Halina Tomaszczyk, MD
Halina Tomaszczyk, MD | GMC licence number: 3125964
Addiction from nicotine
from 184,99 zł
+ cost of medical consultation

Nicotine dependence – how to give up smoking effectively?

Nicotine dependence, also known as nicotinism, although may seem not that hazardous, is one of the strongest and most harmful addictions. It is not without reason that it is compared with hard drug dependence. 

Nicotine is classified as one of the strongest psychoactive substances. It leads to both physical and psychological addiction. This process is very fast and extremely potent. Nicotine dependence syndrome is a disease that calls for specialist treatment.

What is addiction?

Addiction is an acquired state of mental or mental and physical health disorder. It occurs as a result of performing certain regular activities or taking substances, including psychoactive substances. At the beginning, the process gives pleasure, but over time it becomes compulsory and has negative effects on health and life.

Smoking – why is nicotine addictive?

Nicotine considerably affects nicotinic receptors in the brain. Having reached the receptor, nicotine activates it, which leads to the release of dopamine, that is the so-called hormone of happiness. Besides dopamine, nicotine causes the release of such neurotransmitters as serotonin, noradrenalin, acetylcholine, and glutamate. 

Smoking leads to a higher number of the said nicotinic receptors in the brain. Over time, the brain becomes less and less sensitive to nicotine. This leads to a situation where a smoker, in order to feel pleasure, needs to reach for a cigarette more often, thus increasing the nicotine dose. This is how nicotine cravings manifest themselves and soon the whole process becomes an addiction. 

If we asked a heavy smoker what they get out of smoking, we might hear that it boosts their energy to act, helps them concentrate, or calms their nerves. This creates an impression that nicotine has very positive stimulating or calming effects – but it could not be further from the truth. Yes – a smoker reaches for a cigarette to achieve such a positive state, but they do so only because they have not supplied their body with nicotine and therefore feel irritated, nervous, distracted, and really cannot concentrate. Nicotine stimulates the central nervous system, but weakens and destroys the entire body.

Cigarettes – why are they harmful? What do they contain?

Why smoking cigarettes is so unhealthy? A cigarette itself contains a tobacco mixture made of prepared leaves of different tobacco varieties. All that is harmful is released when a cigarette is lit and the smoke is created. 

It is cigarette smoke that contains several thousand chemical substances that are toxic, addictive, and carcinogenic. Three of the best-known chemical substances are nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide. 

Nicotine belongs to pyridinic alkaloids demonstrating strong addictive properties, it gets to the blood with cigarette smoke and affects all the internal organs, including:
  • Central nervous system;
  • Circulatory system;
  • Digestive system.

  • Besides nicotine, cigarette smoke contains carcinogenic tar and other toxic ingredients added during cigarette production. Some of them are:

  • Heavy metals;
  • Aromatic hydrocarbons;
  • Radioactive elements;
  • Nitrosamines;
  • Fatty acids esters;
  • Vinyl chloride;
  • Acetone;
  • DDT – pesticide;
  • Methanol;
  • Hydrogen cyanide;
  • Butane;
  • Benzene;
  • Cadmium;
  • Nickel;
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Carbon monoxide, in turn, is a fatally toxic gas that affects the respiratory system and the circulatory system.

    Smoking cigarettes – what diseases does it cause?

    Many people do not even realize what might be the consequences of smoking or do not want to know. Nicotine dependence is so strong that heavy smokers ignore the problem or say – “You have to die of something in the end”. This is not, actually, very far from the truth. Smoking cigarettes is associated with the risk of developing cancers, cardiovascular diseases, or respiratory system diseases. 

    Diseases caused by smoking:
  • Malignant tumours of: lungs, oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, oesophagus, pancreas, stomach, kidneys, urinary bladder, cervix;
  • as well as some types of leukaemia;
  • Respiratory system diseases: lung cancer, pulmonary emphysema, respiratory insufficiency, acute bronchitis and other acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, tuberculosis;
  • Cardiovascular diseases: hypertension, atherosclerosis, cardiac failure, stroke, aneurysm, gangrene, arrhythmia;
  • Disturbed pregnancy and perinatal period: ectopic pregnancy, preterm birth and miscarriage, low birthweight, sudden infant death, ADHD;
  • Digestive tract diseases: stomach and duodenum ulcers, gingival cancer, palate cancer, intestinal hernia, large intestine cancer, anal cancer;
  • Dental diseases: periodontal disease, gingivitis, caries;
  • Eye diseases: conjunctivitis, cataract, macular disease;
  • Endocrine system diseases: hyperthyroidism (Graves' disease), hypothyroidism;
  • Reproductive system diseases: cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, potency problems.
  • Smoking in pregnancy

    During pregnancy and breastfeeding, most mothers avoid smoking cigarettes because they are aware of the consequences of poisoning themselves and their baby. However, as statistics demonstrate, as much as 30% of mothers-to-be do not give up the habit when pregnant. 

    Consequences of smoking cigarettes during pregnancy and breastfeeding may be tragic. Obviously, smoking is not neutral to the health and development of a child. 

    An unborn passive smoker has an overexerted heart, contact with carcinogenic substances, and receives fewer nutritional substances and considerably less oxygen with blood. This, in turn, leads to malnutrition and hypoxia. Such an infant is usually smaller than healthy new-borns of non-smoking parents and is often born preterm. It is, then, more susceptible to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, congenital defects, or sudden infant death syndrome. A smoking mother, on the other hand, runs the risk of a miscarriage, preterm birth, or stillbirth.

    Passive smoking

    It turns out that not only heavy smokers must bear the consequences of their addiction. Cigarette smoke with all its harmful impact also affect everyone near smokers. What is more, the smoke inhaled by passive smokers contains 35 times more carbon dioxide and 4 times more nicotine than the smoke that is inhaled to the lungs directly from a cigarette. 

    Therefore, the consequences of passive smoking may be equally dire as that of active smoking. In this case, there is also a risk of contracting lung cancer or ischaemic heart disease. Cigarette smoke has irritating effects on skin and eyes, may cause allergy, cough, respiratory system infections, and asthma. 

    Apart from the fact that cigarette smoking causes a range of diseases, cigarette smoking itself is a disease considered a chronic condition requiring appropriate treatment.

    How to give up smoking? Fighting nicotine dependence

    It is not easy to give up smoking, which everyone who has ever tried to break the habit will undoubtedly confirm. People dependent on nicotine often make numerous attempts before they manage to give up smoking. However, those who have succeeded know that it was worth it. 

    Giving up smoking is harder when addiction has reached the physical and psychological level. There is a range of ways and methods to fight the nicotine addiction. The sooner a smoker decides to do battle with the addiction, the faster their body will start to cleanse itself of toxins and return to normal functioning.

    Methods to give up smoking

    Crucial in giving up smoking is motivation and convincing yourself that it is absolutely necessary to break the habit. It is worth looking into the consequences of smoking, which should start the process of discouragement from reaching for a cigarette. 

    However, everyone needs their own reasons to give up smoking. For some, the reasons will relate to health issue, for others economic or aesthetic… or possible all at once. Some will give up smoking because they have just started jogging and smoking is definitely not helping, others might just start saving and find out how much money they spend on their “pleasure”. 

    After deciding to give up smoking, it is good to prepare yourself for it. You can write down pros and cons of smoking on a piece of paper, you can use the discouragement method – that is place objects that make you feel disgusted with smoking around your living space (everyone has their own way), you can even find allies among your closest ones. Family and friends will surely be an invaluable support in the battle against addiction. 

    Smoking is not only nicotine dependence, but also certain habits. Having given up smoking, a smoker starts to miss something they could hold in their hand or the smoke breaks that their days revolved around. All that can be replaced with other activities. You need to remember that every habit can be changed. You can plan in advance what can replace the cigarette and what activities can be introduced during the day in order to occupy your head and your body. 

    Obviously, you can always go to a specialist, who will guide you through the process of curing the addiction in a more professional way. There are specialized therapies, including anti-nicotinic therapies, which, in conjunction with various preparations, support the process of giving up smoking.

    Preparations to give up smoking – tablets, chewing gums, patches

    Smokers who want to break the habit often look for preparations that will help them succeed. In this case, you can use pharmacological preparations that alleviate the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and control the activity of nicotine receptors. The preparations often contain pure nicotine used as part of a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). 

    The most popular NRTs include:
  • Nicotine patches;
  • Nicotine chewing gums;
  • Nicotine tablets;
  • Nicotine inhalers;
  • Nose sprays;
  • Lozenges.
  • If, in the process of fighting the addiction, a smoker does not want to use nicotine, they can choose cytisine – a substance referred to as nicotine substitute.

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