Mark Twain once remarked, “Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it a thousand times.” Like you, Mr. Twain recognized the difficulties inherent in smoking cessation. Breaking free from the habit of cigarette smoking is difficult, so difficult in fact that the success rate, at the minimum on the first few attempts, is extremely low. But why? Why, despite everything we know regarding the dangers of smoking is it so difficult to put cigarettes away for good? The answer is simple: nicotine.
What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is a drug found in tobacco. With addictive similarities that are every bit as strong as heroin or cocaine, nicotine can have a person hooked in a very short amount of time. And once a person becomes physically and psychologically addicted to nicotine, quitting becomes extremely difficult.
How Does It Work?
So how exactly does nicotine affect you? When you inhale smoke, the nicotine found in tobacco enters your lungs. From there the nicotine is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and carried throughout your body. Once distributed throughout your body, nicotine begins to wreak havoc on a number of internal systems. Your heart, blood vessels, hormones and brain are all negatively impacted by nicotine. Not only does it cause diseases such as cancer and heart disease and COPD, it affects your metabolism in addition, changing the way your body processes food. Nicotine can be especially dangerous in pregnant women. It can move into breast milk and already the mucus of the cervix. With the ability to freely cross the placenta, nicotine can already be absorbed by amniotic fluid and has been found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.
Nicotine is not easily dispelled from the body. In most situations, it can take up to 4 days after quitting for nicotine to leave the body. This explains why cravings for cigarettes are most common at about 72-96 hours after quitting.
Nicotine has a inclination to create pleasant if not euphoric feelings. But it can also act as a kind of depressant which disrupts the flow of information between nerve cells. As smoking progresses, the average smoker will tend to smoke more as the need to repeat the pleasant feeling rises. This, clearly, increases the amount of nicotine in the system, and over time the smoker builds up tolerance. Now, more cigarettes are required to produce those feelings and the consequence is a chemical addiction that can be nearly impossible to break.
Why is Quitting so Difficult?
When smokers try to quit, the side effects they notice-cravings, irritability, anxiety-are typical signs of nicotine withdrawal. The body and mind have grown so accustomed to functioning with the drug that sudden cessation causes very uncomfortable and often extremely symptoms. Difficulty in quitting is neither a sign of poor will strength nor flawed character but of a powerful and unrelenting addiction.
If smoking has become a problem in your life-and if you smoke there is certainly a problem-take action quickly and get help if needed. The strength of nicotine addiction is strong, but with help it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.