Facing the Fatal Attraction
You Are Not Alone
Most people who continue to use nicotine products do so because they cannot stop. Smoking tobacco is the most common method of nicotine delivery. Worldwide 40% of men and 9% of women smoke a total of 6 trillion cigarettes a year (World Health Organization, 2018).
If you desire to be nicotine-free, it may be comforting to know you have a lot of company. In 2000, 70% of U.S. adult smokers wanted to quit, and 41% had stopped smoking for at least one day during the preceding year in an effort to quit (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
It might be encouraging to learn that, since 1965, the smoking rate among adults has dropped from 42.4% to 13.9% in 2017 (American Heart Association, 2018). With our recovery program of mutual support, we have found a way to live nicotine-free, one day at a time.
What Is Nicotine?
According to the American Lung Association:
- Nicotine is a poison used as an insecticide.
- When inhaled, nicotine gets to a person’s brain in seven seconds, twice as fast as intravenous drugs.
- Nicotine affects the brain and central nervous system. It changes the level of neurotransmitters and chemicals that regulate mood, learning, alertness, and ability to concentrate.
- Nicotine increases the heart rate, but it constricts the blood vessels, which reduces circulation.
- Nicotine can act like a stimulant or a sedative, depending on the level of nicotine in the body and time of day. Smoking also causes the release of endorphins, which create a tranquilizing effect.
- A tolerance for nicotine begins to develop with the first dose. Therefore, the level of use must increase to maintain its effects and to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Why It Isn't Easy To Stop
It is now widely accepted that nicotine is an extremely addictive and mood-altering substance. However, one of nicotine’s baffling qualities is that its grip is not the same on everyone. Although there is genetic and biochemical research that describes some of the various and powerful effects of nicotine, as a fellowship, Nicotine Anonymous has no opinion on such complex issues and controversies, viewing them as outside issues.
Some nicotine users may only have a behavioral habit, others are nicotine-dependent, while the vast majority experience the full-blown addiction where nicotine generates a physical compulsion combined with a mental obsession to continually use it. These effects may be masked by how easy it is to acquire and maintain an adequate supply. Often, only when a nicotine user “runs out” and he or she has to suddenly “run out” to get their drug in the middle of whatever they are doing, do the telltale withdrawal symptoms reveal the truth.
You can review the pamphlet Introducing Nicotine Anonymous for further information about the behavior patterns of a nicotine addict. Here are just a few reasons why it isn’t easy to stop using nicotine:
- “. . . while the odds on those trying crack or alcohol becoming addicts are 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 respectively, they’re 9 in 10 for cigarette smokers,” reports the chief of clinical pharmacology, National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- “. . . Scientists have found, for instance, that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine or amphetamines, and for most people more addictive than alcohol,” states the article “Nicotine, Harder to Kick than Heroin,” published in the New York Times Magazine.
- About half of all nicotine users start by age 13, and 90% of all users begin by age 19. Dr. David Kessler (U.S. FDA, 1996) said that nicotine addiction is a "pediatric disease."
- Tobacco use is familiar behavior that still occurs in many public areas. This may give the false impression, especially to children, that tobacco is safe to use.
By the time nicotine users are ready to quit, they are not only physically hooked, they have had years of powerful psychological and cultural associations stored in their memory, which can act as familiar “triggers” to prompt the use of nicotine.
Our use of nicotine made our lives unmanageable and most likely affected others. We have come to accept that nicotine addiction is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual disease.
Nicotine use affected our behavior and attitudes. The continual desire for nicotine patterned our thinking and we believed we could not live without it. We invented many rationalizations and excuses to maintain our supply of nicotine.
The biochemical effects may have instilled a false sense of pleasure or control, but we were out of control. One puff or chew was too many, and a thousand was never enough.
Left to our own devices, we would have continued to destroy our bodies, suppress our feelings, and alienate our families, lovers, and friends.
The Impact on Physical Health
Although our focus is on recovery, we are an honest program. We no longer live in denial of the dangers of nicotine.
More than 50,000 different scientific studies have documented that a direct link exists between tobacco use and disease. The Surgeon General said, “ . . . smoking represents the most exclusively documented cause of disease ever investigated in the history of biomedical research" (1990).
The fatalities from tobacco are far greater than fatalities from all illegal drugs and alcohol combined. The worldwide toll from tobacco use is 5.4 million annually, and half of the smokers today will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases. At the current rate, the death toll is projected to reach more than 8 million annually by 2030 and a total of up to one billion deaths in the 21st century (World Health Organization, 2008).
According to the Surgeon General, cigarette smoking causes a long list of cancers as well as heart and lung diseases. In addition, women experience menopause 1 to 2 years earlier and smoking contributes to abnormal Pap tests and cancer of the cervix. It is associated with premature wrinkling, especially around the mouth and eyes. In both men and women, smoking may reduce sexual function.
For oral (e.g., chew, dip) tobacco users, the risk of cancer to the cheek and gum is nearly 50 times greater than non-users. (American Cancer Society, 1998)
Smoking also causes injuries and deaths due to house fires, forest fires, and various accidental incidents.
More studies are continually finding links to many other health problems.
The Impact Of Secondhand Smoke
Tobacco smoke is as dangerous to non-smokers as firsthand smoke is to smokers themselves (Oral Cancer Foundation, 2008). There are over 60 cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke (National Cancer Institute, 2007).
Although the number of American non-smokers exposed to tobacco smoke has dropped from 88% in 1996, to 40% in 2007, to 25% in 2012, secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,300 lung cancer deaths and 34,000 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year (CDC 2018) and 890,000 deaths worldwide (World Health Organization, 2018).
Parental smoking causes 2,800 deaths at birth and 2,000 deaths from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the United States annually (Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 1997). U.S. children exposed to tobacco smoke in the home have:
- 300,000 pneumonia and bronchitis cases (American Lung Association, 2007).
- More likely to develop asthma, severe middle-ear infections, and other health problems (U.S. Surgeon General, 2007).
- Reduced learning abilities in reading, math, and reasoning (Pediatric Academic Societies, 2002)
- Higher incidence of behavior problems (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 2006) and ADHD (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2007)
The American Journal of Epidemiology (1991) reported that:
- Children whose parents smoke are three to four times as likely to develop serious infectious diseases requiring hospitalization
- Children exposed, prior to birth, to either of their parent’s smoking have an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma.
Pregnant smokers increase the chances for mental retardation in their newborns by 75 percent (Pediatrics, Apr. 1994).
Dilution, ventilation, or air cleaning are all unacceptable methods for the control of the lung cancer or heart disease risks of secondhand smoke (OSHA, 1994). There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke (U.S. Surgeon General, 2007).
Awareness of these dangers become important in our Fourth, Eighth, and Ninth Step work.. Setting our “excuses” aside, we may identify various character defects that enabled us to smoke and disregard the health threat to others. A new awareness can lead us to make appropriate amends and promote our own spiritual healing.
Other Nicotine Delivery Systems
We offer a recovery program to gain freedom from nicotine. We accept that nicotine is a toxic, addictive substance that endangers our quality of life. According to our Tenth Tradition, “Nicotine Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues . . .” We neither endorse nor oppose any method or mechanism that delivers nicotine, e.g., nicotine gum, patches or vaping products. Such issues are for each member to decide for themself, but we are a fellowship of people helping each other to live our lives free of nicotine.
We seek clarity and honesty as part of our personal recovery, and unity of purpose for our common welfare. We support each other in reaching the goal of nicotine abstinence as we share the benefits of our individual journey toward a spiritual awakening.
What You Gain By Quitting
Although there may be lasting consequences from our past behavior, we find our recovery is well worth whatever lengths we must go to. We have found that we must remain honest and vigilant in our process if we are to remain nicotine-free. The steps of action we take give us the gift of recovery.
There are physical benefits. The Surgeon General’s 1990 Report, “The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation” reaches these major conclusions:
- People who quit smoking live longer than those who continue to smoke;
- There are benefits to quitting smoking for those quitting at older ages, even those who already suffer from a smoking-related illness;
- Women who stop smoking either before pregnancy or during the first 3-4 months have infants of the same birth weight as those born to women who never smoked;
- The health benefits of quitting far exceed any risks from the average 5 pound weight gain or adverse psychological effects that may follow quitting.
In addition to the many physical benefits, Nicotine Anonymous members also discover many other benefits when they become free of the demoralizing cycle of nicotine addiction. For example:
- Our self-esteem rises as we engage in these steps of action.
- We feel the relief of having a threat to our lives removed.
- We have more gratitude for the support that others can provide.
- Our renewed hope inspires us to make other improvements.
- We have more attention, time, and energy for enjoyable activities.
- We sense a new clarity and certainty about our emotional lives.
- We learn to take care of our life rather than take chances with it.
- We have a new strength to face and embrace life on life’s terms.
- We appreciate being more fully conscious and conscientious.
- We develop a wiser trust in ourselves and others.
- We experience a closer spiritual connection with a Higher Power.
- Our lives improve in many ways we previously had not even imagined.