Why It’s So Hard To Quit Smoking
The science behind why it’s so difficult to quit smoking is crystal clear: Nicotine is addictive reportedly as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
Yet any adult can stroll into a drug store and buy a pack of cigarettes, no questions asked.
“From a scientific standpoint, nicotine is just as hard, or harder, to quit than heroin but people don’t recognize that,” said Dr. Neil Benowitz, a nicotine researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.
Smoking is the world’s leading preventable cause of death. More than 1.1 billion people smoke worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. And more are continually joining the ranks. Every day in the U.S. alone, more than 3,200 youth 18 and younger smoke their first cigarette, while another 2,100 youth and young adults move from smoking occasionally to having a daily habit.
In 1964, the U.S. surgeon general’s famous report, “Smoking and Health,” linked smoking to cancer. Two decades later in 1988, another landmark surgeon general’s report on nicotine addiction declared nicotine to be as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
“Every drug of abuse, including nicotine, releases dopamine, which makes it pleasurable to use,” said Benowitz. “And when you stop smoking, you have a deficiency of dopamine release, which causes a state of dysphoria: you feel anxious or depressed.”
Nicotine also acts as a stimulant, said Benowitz. “It helps people concentrate, and if they don’t have a cigarette, they have trouble focusing.”
Nicotine Is Extremely Addictive And Marketed Towards Teenagers
During National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week in January, The National Institute on Drug Abuse seeks to expose facts and Shatter the Myths about drug use. Heres a fact you might not know: Nicotine is just as addictive as heroin. Thats not a new-found fact. As far back as 1988, the surgeon general;compared the addictive quality of nicotine to both heroin and cocaine. That means its just as hard to quit smoking as it is for someone addicted to heroin to stop using drugs. While this may not be a new fact, it has renewed meaning today, when this highly addictive substance is being marketed to teens in the form of e-cigarettes.
Like other addictive substances, nicotine releases;dopaminea chemical in the brain that helps control pleasure and motivation. When a smoker finishes a cigarette, the pleasurable feeling subsides quickly, and he or she craves more. Eventually a person develops a tolerance, meaning more nicotine is needed to feel pleasureand overtime, more is needed just to feel normal.
The risk of addiction is worse in teens and young adults, because their brains are still developing. Today, that risk is exacerbated by the increasing popularity of vaping among high school and middle school students. E-cigarettes often contain higher, more concentrated levels of nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
Which Drugs Have The Highest Rate Of Dependence
Over the years, there has been much debate among researchers regarding which substances should be classified as the most addictive. An;addiction is marked by compulsive substance-seeking behavior, a growing tolerance to the drug or alcohol and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 22.7 million Americans have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
With such a significant percent of the population having an addiction, its important to take a deeper look into which substances are particularly difficult to overcome a dependence on.
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Is Vaping As Addictive As Smoking
So the most extreme statements about nicotines addictiveness are actually misrepresentations of claims made about smoking, which fly in the face of the abundant evidence of significant differences between the addictiveness of smoking and that of nicotine, but what about vaping? Well, for all of the same reasons, vaping doesnt appear to be as addictive as smoking either.
One key point raised by Tom Pruen is the speed of nicotine delivery. In Dr. Farsalinos study comparing the nicotine delivery from cigarettes to that from first and later-generation e-cigarettes, it was shown that the speed of nicotine delivery from even higher-quality, later-generation e-cigarettes was much slower than from smoking. It took 35 minutes of vaping to obtain the same amount of blood nicotine found after just 5 minutes of smoking.
The speed of delivery of the drug is a crucial factor in determining how addictive it is, so this is pretty compelling evidence that e-cigarettes arent as addictive as tobacco cigarettes. The lack of the additional chemicals that enhance nicotines addictive effects are even more reason to assume this to be true. Acetaldehyde is present in e-cig vapor, admittedly, but in non-dry-puff conditions, the levels are about 275 times lower than in cigarette smoke, so even though this does seem to increase the addictive potential of nicotine, its effect will be much greater in smoke than in vapor.
Why Is It So Hard To Quit Tobacco
Stopping or cutting back on tobacco causes symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Withdrawal is both physical and mental. Physically, your body is reacting to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, you are faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior. Emotionally, you might feel like as if youve lost your best friend. Studies have shown that smokeless tobacco users have as much trouble giving up tobacco as people who want to quit smoking cigarettes.
People who have used tobacco regularly for a few weeks or longer will have withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop or greatly reduce the amount they use. Theres no danger in nicotine withdrawal, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable. They usually start within a few hours and peak about 2 to 3 days later when most of the nicotine and its by-products are out of the body. Withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to up to several weeks. They get better every day that a person stays tobacco-free.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following:
- Feelings of frustration, impatience, and anger
- Trouble sleeping, including trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and having bad dreams or even nightmares
- Trouble concentrating
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A New Study Highlights Nicotinesaddictive Powers
While weve long known that nicotine is extremely addictive, a new study illustrates why and how this is. A team of scientists at UC San Diego School of Medicine found that exposure to nicotine through breastfeeding in the early stages of life produced brain changes that resulted in a higher likelihood of smoking and other addictive behaviors later in life.
Why Are Nicotine And Alcohol Linked
Few drugs are as closely associated as nicotine and alcohol. The image of a smoky bar has been a literary trope for centuries, and a common setting of film and television since those mediums were first popularized. It is also very common for those who rarely smoke to only smoke when they drink. This is an especially tragic combination as nicotine and alcohol both cause significant long-term health complications, complications which are often worsened by the continuing abuse of the other drug.
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How Addictive Is Alcohol Compared To Other Drugs
Alcohol is a substance that affects the brain and body the same way that drugs do. Its a socially accepted and encouraged drug, but a drug nonetheless. Millions of Americans abuse alcohol and drugs every year. With alcohol, it can be difficult to realize that you have a problem. Access to alcohol is easy to come by, and people dont see frequent drinking as a huge problem. But how addictive is alcohol compared to other drugs?
The answer: Alcohol is one of the most addictive drugs in existence. Researchers estimate that it is more addictive than any drugs except for cocaine and heroin. Nicotine is the next most addictive drug, followed by meth.
Acute Effects And Insight Into Reinforcing/addictive Properties Of Cannabis
All drugs of abuse increase DA release a key neurobiological process that generates their reinforcing effects . Here we evaluate the acute changes in DA circuitry associated with cannabis intake in preclinical and clinical studies that provide basis for the reinforcing effects of cannabis. While the two main constituents of cannabis are delta9-tetrahydracannabinol and cannabidiol , THC seems to be responsible for cannabis addictive potential due to its psychoactive properties and associated effects on brain dopaminergic function. Acute THC administration elicits striatal DA release in animals and humans . However, another study found no evidence for THC-induced DA release ; this may be because THC induces quantitatively less DA release than psychostimulants such as methylphenidate or amphetamine . Nonetheless, these findings suggest that THC increases DA release similar to other drugs of abuse.
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Causes Of Nicotine Addiction
Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products causes nicotine addiction. Nicotine is very addictive, so even infrequent use can lead to dependence.
Its possible for smoking cessation products, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches, to cause nicotine addiction. However, the risk is low. This is because the amount of nicotine in these products is lower and delivered more slowly than the nicotine in tobacco.
The 5 Most Addictive Drugs And How You Can Get Help
According to 2019 Department of Health and Human Services data, about 20 million Americans live with a drug or alcohol addiction. In the past month:
- 35.8 million people used an illegal drug
- 140 million people drank alcohol
- 45.9 million people smoked cigarettes
Addiction is a compulsive need to use a substance despite the consequences, and there are some drugs that could be more addictive than others.
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Myth: Nicotine Is As Addictive As Heroin And Cocaine
But, you may be wondering, since nicotine is addictive as heroin and cocaine, then surely e-cigarettes are still really addictive? The big problem with this statement is that it says nicotine instead of smoking, and there are many differences between the two when it comes to addictiveness.
There are many reasons for this, but the point is shown well enough by the fact that there isnt just nicotine in cigarette smoke. Research has shown that monoamine oxidase inhibitors increase the dependence-creating properties of nicotine, and these are present in cigarette smoke. Additionally, other tobacco alkaloids such as anatabine, cotinine and myosmine increase the addictiveness of nicotine with rats showing more signs of dependence after receiving a mixture of these and nicotine than when just receiving nicotine alone. Acetaldehyde and nitric oxide in cigarette smoke have also been shown to increase the effect of nicotine.
So, if it isnt just nicotine that makes smoking addictive, why do the CDC and others claim that nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine? The CDC provides references for their statement which is softened to Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol and this leads to the Surgeon Generals report.
Further Research Is Warranted In Ranking Addictive Drugs
Currently we lack a comprehensive reference for addiction potential of various drugs. In the past, most researchers only examined the addiction potential of nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana. This list is a bit more comprehensive because it provides some insight in regards to specific drug subtypes such as crack cocaine and crystal meth but also fails to provide specific pharmaceutical drugs.
I would venture to believe that a drug such as OxyContin which provides 12 hours of release of Oxycodone would make the list. It would also be interesting to compare specific drugs such as Valium and Xanax and have a ranking hierarchy within each broad class of drugs. Although most drugs act similarly, there are going to be slight differences. What do you think about the list of drugs above? Feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences in the comments section below.
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How Drugs Affect The Brain
Addiction is a medical condition that can alter your behavior and brain chemistry. The exact long-term effects depend largely on the substance that you use. Chemical dependency can cause difficult withdrawal symptoms, some of which might be life-threatening with alcohol. Substance use disorders occur when someone cannot control their use of drugs.
The biggest danger of drugs is that they affect the pleasure part of the brain. They make you feel euphoric, giddy, relaxed, or just happy. They affect the reward center, so you feel like something good has happened or youve just accomplished something.
When this process repeats itself, that can change the way that you take in information. The drug becomes associated with good feelings, and being off the drug is associated with bad feelings. If you abuse drugs for long enough, it will lead to your body becoming dependent on them to function.
Tobacco Nicotine And E
Yes. Most smokers use tobacco regularly because they are addicted to nicotine. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, even in the face of negative health consequences. The majority of smokers would like to stop smoking, and each year about half try to quit permanently. Yet, only about 6 percent of smokers are able to quit in a given year.25 Most smokers will need to make multiple attempts before they are able to quit permanently.22 Medications including varenicline, and some antidepressants , and nicotine-replacement therapy, can help in many cases .26
A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the “high” associated with other drugs. However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits,20,21,27 which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug. Repeated exposure alters these circuits’ sensitivity to dopamine and leads to changes in other brain circuits involved in learning, stress, and self-control. For many tobacco users, the long-term brain changes induced by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction, which involves withdrawal symptoms when not smoking, and difficulty adhering to the resolution to quit.28,29
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Comparison: David Nutts Research Vs Dutch Findings
There are several similarities and differences between the initial research conducted by David Nutt and that brought forth in the alleged Dutch study. Both agree on the most addictive drug, but other rankings differ slightly. The Dutch study seemed to get into more specifics, whereas the original focused more on general classifications.
Similarities: Both David Nutt and the Dutch study seem to agree that the most addictive drug of all is heroin. If we are generalizing, both do find various forms of cocaine to be the second most addicting, and nicotine to rank third on the addiction scale.
Differences: The studies differ in various drug rankings and ratings. The Dutch study seems to have standard forms of cocaine ranking lower on the scale than alcohol. Additionally in the Nutt study, specific formulations of drugs such as crystal meth or crack cocaine are not mentioned. One striking difference was the mention of GHB in the newer study as being ranked #10 and in the older Nutt study, being among the least addictive drugs. Since theres no formal citation for this newer research, I gave more weight to the published study by Nutt.
Finding Solutions To Drug Addiction
Recovery does;not end once treatment is complete.
Recovery is a lifelong process that requires your commitment, patience, self-love, and support.
Even years after recovery, it is essential to continue to apply the skills you learn during your treatment.
Once you realize that you have a problem the next step is to make the call.
Asking for help is the right thing to do for your body, mind, and soul. Knowing what is the most addictive substance on earth is important as well.
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Every patient is evaluated, and a tailored program is created unique to your needs.
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Is Nicotine Alone Addictive At All
This is the really interesting question, and Chris Price points out that there have been no substantial attempts to really answer it. Because of the additional components in smoke that likely play a role in establishing addiction, he points out that the only relevant studies would be ones in which never-smokers were given pure nicotine. For smokers whove switched to a pure form of nicotine , the changes in brain chemistry assumed to be caused by starting to smoke means that there is already dependence on nicotine, so only never-smokers are likely to be relevant.
Some evidence of this type can arguably be found in trials of nicotine for its potential benefits for other conditions, such as this one looking at whether it could help with mild cognitive impairments . By the end of the study, 34 non-smokers had been on 15 mg of nicotine per day in the form of patches, but none reported any withdrawal symptoms, and all stopped using the patches. Someotherstudies have also looked at nicotine as a potential treatment for other conditions in never-smokers with no reports of dependence. However, evidence of this type is ultimately very limited, and since none of these studies specifically set out to investigate dependence in never-smokers, its more like anecdotal evidence than anything.