- The addictive property of cigarettes mainly stems from its nicotine content, which triggers a release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain and reinforces its mild rewards, leading to repetitive usage.
- Nicotine withdrawal can disrupt brain functionality, causing feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and disturbances in focus and sleep patterns.
- A significant percentage of daily smokers start smoking before the age of 21, suggesting that youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction.
- Research suggests that transitioning to low-nicotine cigarettes (with just 0.2 mg nicotine compared to a standard cigarette’s 11.6 mg) can potentially assist those attempting to quit smoking, especially if paired with follow-up appointments and nicotine-replacement therapy.
- A range of smoking cessation treatments exist, such as addiction counseling, nicotine patches and lozenges, and medications like Chantix and Bupropion, which target nicotine receptors in the brain and alleviate withdrawal symptoms respectively.
A significant population often makes the firm resolution to give up on smoking. This may be driven by a new year resolution, a health scare, budget constraints, or simply aiming for better breath. Regardless, only a handful out of numerous smokers who attempt to quit each year actually succeed in breaking free from the chain of addiction. This hints towards the addictive properties of cigarettes which override any intense resolve to quit. So, what makes cigarettes so addictive?
Understanding the Addictiveness of Cigarettes
Studies reveal that cigarettes meddle with your brain’s chemistry over time, triggering a release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals. The key perpetrator behind the addiction is nicotine, a substance known for its addictive potential. It controls the user’s repetitive usage pattern, not by offering pleasure or inducing any form of impairment, but by amplifying the experience of its comparatively mild rewards.
Even though devoid of euphoria or impairment unlike opioids and marijuana, nicotine’s strong ability to reinforce its rewards results in numerous deaths annually. In addition to the addictive attributes, smoking contributes to severe health concerns like cancer, lung diseases, and heart problems.
Zooming into Nicotine
Recognized as a stimulant by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, nicotine, the active psychoactive ingredient in tobacco, is a culprit behind the addictive nature of cigarettes. Nicotine, a compound found in tobacco plants, forms an inherent part of all tobacco products, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigars. Furthermore, e-cigarettes too, contain nicotine.
The brain’s reaction to nicotine withdrawal can incite feelings of anxiety and agitation and even complicate focus and sleep patterns. On consumption, nicotine reaches the brain within seconds and overtime, a mental association of nicotine satisfaction with daily habits like a cup of coffee or relaxation forms.
Break away from nicotine can imply withdrawal symptoms like sadness, restlessness, slower heart rate, weight gain, and cravings, difficulty concentrating, sleeping issues, and feeling restless. A recent research even suggested that nicotine might arch up the enjoyment factor in video games. Youth are majorly susceptible to nicotine addiction, with a significant percentage of daily smokers having their first cigarette before the age of 21.
The Road to Quitting Smoking
Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a sharp decline in the number of people attempting to quit smoking. The journey to quitting smoking may be strewn with numerous difficulties, but researchers believe an alternate solution might lie in transitioning to a low-nicotine cigarette.
A standard cigarette contains approximately 11.6 milligrams (mg) of nicotine. Research suggests that low-nicotine cigarettes, with just 0.2 mg nicotine, can potentially assist smokers, particularly those battling anxiety or depression, in quitting.
Experts suggest smokers transitioning to low-nicotine cigarettes would likely feel less addicted and closer to quitting smoking, especially when assisted with follow-up appointments and nicotine-replacement therapy. However, the journey gets complicated when the battle is against dual addiction as in the case of those addicted to vaping and smoking.
Medical experts and researchers propound various smoking cessation treatments ranging from addiction counseling to nicotine patches and lozenges. Medications like Chantix, effective in blocking nicotine receptors in the brain, or Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin), aimed at minimizing withdrawal symptoms and reducing smoking urges, have also been found beneficial in the journey of quitting smoking.