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What Causes a Smoking Addiction?

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People addicted to smoking often find it hard to quit the habit for good. In this article, we are going to explore the main causes of smoking addictions and provide ways on how to spot and prevent them before it’s too late.

When do people start smoking?

Most smoking addictions start out of curiosity — particularly during teenage years. Studies show that those who have friends or family members who smoke are more likely to smoke than those who have a non-smoking circle.

Those who start smoking will eventually become addicted to nicotine — a very addictive drug found in cigarettes. According to studies, 90% of adult smokers started before they were 18 years old. This means that 75% of high school smokers will become addicted to smoking when they turn to adulthood. 25% of these adult smokers are at risk of dying from tobacco-related diseases.

Defining addiction

Addiction is compulsory dependence on a product despite its harmful consequences. Addiction is mental and emotional. Smoking addicts are hooked to nicotine which is known to be as addictive and destructive as cocaine.

What are the symptoms of nicotine addiction?

On average, a regular cigarette contains between 1 to 2 mg of nicotine. The amount of nicotine you take in will depend on several factors (e.g. how deep you inhale, number of puffs, etc.). Below, we list down some of the common symptoms of a nicotine addiction so you’ll know when your smoking habit is getting out of hand:

You can’t stop - one of the surefire signs of nicotine dependence is your inability to stop despite trying many times before.

You experience withdrawal symptoms - nicotine withdrawal symptoms vary from one person to another. Some of the common ones include:

  • Strong cravings
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased hunger
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling sad
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

You continue your smoking habit despite health warnings - another sign of a smoking addiction is choosing to ignore the health warnings because you can’t stop.

Your smoking affects your quality of life - some heavy smokers stop socialising with friends and families because the situation doesn’t allow them to smoke.

How nicotine “hooks” you

Nicotine from tobacco enters your bloodstream through your lungs. From there, it travels to the brain, flooding its reward circuits with a chemical known as dopamine (e.g: the happy hormone). This explains the high that smokers feel whenever they smoke.

The problem is that the effects of nicotine wear off after a few minutes, causing the smoker to long for the feeling again. This leads to a vicious cycle of smoking so that the ‘high’ can be felt again.

Your body tends to adapt to the amount of nicotine in your bloodstream. As your tolerance increases, the number of cigarettes you need to smoke in order to get the same high will also increase — leading to a full-blown addiction.

Know your smoking triggers

Smoking is often connected to your emotions and other habits. For example, common patterns that lead to smoking include:

  • Drinking coffee
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Spending time with friends who smoke

The best way to deal with these triggers is to be mindful. Identify which of these triggers affect you and make a plan on how to deal with them. Knowing and then dealing with these smoking triggers is one of the first steps to successfully stop smoking.

On the emotional side, some people smoke because it’s their way of coping up with stress and PTSD. Aside from getting support from your loved ones, counselling is also a great way to deal with emotional stress.

When to get help

There are many ways to stop smoking. And you are not alone on this journey. The majority of smokers make several attempts to quit before committing fully.

The best way to stop smoking is by experimenting with various methods. From medication to nicotine patches, there are so many resources to help you.

Doctors and counsellors can even give you a structured treatment plan that addresses the physical, social, and emotional aspects of nicotine addiction. This treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs and your doctor may even prescribe you certain medications to increase your likelihood of quitting the habit for good.