Nicotine and the other active ingredients in tobacco probably kill more Americans each year than all other addictions combined. Some 50 million Americans still smoke, and another 12 million or so chew or dip tobacco. Many users of “smokeless” tobacco mistakenly think it is harmless. While 80 to 90 percent of all smokers say they would like to quit, less than 3 percent quit each year. Smokers are persistent quitters, however, and there are about 40 million former smokers in the United States. Most of these stopped without using any formal program, though not usually on the ﬁrst try.
Nicotine is similar to cocaine in many ways. It reaches the brain within seven seconds of each drag on the cigarette, and the nicotine level in the brain peaks by the end of the cigarette. After about thirty minutes the level has fallen enough that craving begins to set in. This rapid intoxication followed by rapid detoxiﬁcation is very similar to cocaine. No one doubts that the mood and mind alterations caused by cocaine are more powerful, but it may be mostly a matter of degree.
We believe the perception that nicotine is less harmful than alcohol or other drugs also inhibits nicotine recovery for many alcoholics and other addicts. While only about 28 percent of adults smoke, about 80 percent of sober alcoholics smoke. Until recently it was hard to ﬁnd a nonsmoking AA meeting. Bill Wilson, cofounder of AA, and Marty Mann, founder of the National Council on Alcoholism, both died of their nicotine addictions.
Recovering smokers stress that you will continue to have cravings for some time. No other addiction develops such strong habit patterns. If you smoke two and a half packs a day and take ten drags off each cigarette, that is 500 immediate reinforcements of the nicotine habit each day. A Nicotine Anonymous member said, “When I smoke I want to quit, and when I quit I want to smoke.” Although your biochemistry may not know it, the craving will go in the same length of time whether you smoke or not. For more help, write or call:
Updated 6 Sep 2015
Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson
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