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Smoking (Weaning tobacco) Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The smoking is an addiction resulting from addiction to any product manufactured from the leaf tobacco: cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff and chewing tobacco, etc.

The nicotine contained in tobacco is the main agent of this addiction (there are others, but significantly less important). It would be more addictive than heroin, cocaine and alcohol. Since cigarette smoke passes directly from the lungs to the brain through the arteries, it delivers nicotine faster (in less than 10 seconds) than an intravenous injection. In addition, the smoker learns to accurately measure his need for nicotine by the depth, intensity and duration of its inhalation, which is believed to cause a strong addiction.

The dangers of smoking are related to the components released by tobacco at the time of combustion. Experts were able to identify more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, including carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, formaldehyde and benzene. Of these, about 50 are carcinogenic to humans.

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Some statistics

  • Tobacco use is now the leading cause of preventable death worldwide;
  • In 2011, 17% of Canadians aged 15 and over smoked. Nearly a quarter of them were occasional smokers. Among 15-year-olds, 12% were smokers, while 21% of 20-year-olds were 24 years old. About 90% of smokers start smoking before the age of 21;
  • Four smokers of 5 trying to stop smoking at least 1 time per year ;
  • From 3% to 10% of smokers manage to quit without help, as observed after 1 year. The success rate reaches 15% to 20% when the smoker uses help (patches, medication, counseling);
  • Nine out of 10 smokers who quit smoking do so by a freeze rather than a progressive decrease.
A glaring problem in developing countries

The health problems caused by smoking are growing enormously in developing countries. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that about 70% of deaths caused by tobacco dependence occur in these countries. Tobacco companies are carrying out aggressive advertising campaigns to recruit new followers and they target young people. This clientele is very popular; more than 80% of young people aged 10 to 24 in the world live in developing countries. Almost half of the world’s children breathe air polluted by smoke from tobacco!

Mechanisms of habituation

The phenomenon of nicotine addiction occurs in the brain. As soon as the nicotine arrives, it stimulates the release of dopamine. This chemical messenger plays a key role in the neurological perception of pleasure. It decreases anxiety, improves mood and memory, and reduces appetite. For a person who wants to quit, the loss of these truly positive elements of smoking is a crucial step to take.

If one calculates that each cigarette allows about 10 puffs, a person who smokes 30 cigarettes a day sends, daily, 300 calls of dopamine to his brain!

Other emotional and behavioral factors increase addiction, such as the pleasure of gesture and association with pleasant moments (the first coffee, the meal with friends, etc.).

Whenever dopamine is released, the dopamine receptors are put on alert. Gradually, their sensitivity dulls and they can no longer be satisfied with the normal level of dopamine: they are “lacking”. The smoker is tempted to smoke more and more because greater stimulation is needed to produce the same effect. The drug is quickly becoming a chronic problem.

Health problems caused or aggravated by exposure to tobacco smoke

Smoking reduces the life expectancy of 10 year old smokers, on average, compared to non-smokers. It is one of the major risk factors for many diseases. Here are the most common:

  • Hypertension;
  • Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke (CVA): Smokers are 70% more likely to die from coronary artery disease than non-smokers. The arteriosclerosis can also affect leg arteries and cause of the intermittent claudicating . Surgery or amputation is sometimes necessary;
  • Chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which may cause respiratory or cardiac failure;
  • Cancers: cancer of the lung, mouth, esophagus, bladder, etc;
  • Erectile Dysfunction: 2 times more risk in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Peptic ulcer: Nicotine raises secretion of acid in the stomach. This increased secretion of acid may also worsen the symptoms of gastro esophageal reflux;
  • During and after pregnancy, increased risk: miscarriage, complications during pregnancy, low weight newborn, sudden infant death syndrome.

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“Light” cigarettes are no less risky! 
According to a large-scale study, smoking “light” or “ultra light” cigarettes rather than “psychics” does not reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Over time, there are several other consequences that can result from smoking, such as coughing, spitting, shortness of breath, headaches, and digestive problems. In addition, smoking accelerates skin aging, which is why smokers often have a more wrinkled face than nonsmokers.

Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk of having the same health problems as smokers. The children are particularly susceptible to secondhand smoke. Children of parents who are smokers are more affected by asthma and repeat otitis than children of non-smokers because their mucous membranes are more fragile. Two thirds of the smoke emanating from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker but is released into the immediate environment. Pets can also be a victim of second-hand smoke: the risk of cancer is increased in exposed cats and dogs.

Smoking is to be avoided during a pregnancy because it can have harmful consequences for the mother and the child.

Smokers aged 40 and over are advised to undergo spirometry testing to assess lung capacity and to detect chronic lung disease (asthma, COPD) at the beginning of training. These tests are performed in the clinic or at the hospital. Ask your doctor.

Quit smoking: tangible and quick benefits

Shortly after quitting, the risk of illness decreases considerably. For example, the risk of infarction decreases in the days following the stop. One year after quitting, the risk is halved. After 5 years of abstinence, the risk is almost equal to that of a person who has never smoked. However, lungdamage may be irreversible after several years of smoking, although shortness of breath and coughing decrease. With respect to lung cancer, the risk after 10 years to 15 years of stopping smoking has returned to that of the non-smoking population.

Symptoms of Smoking (Weaning tobacco)

When smokers stop using nicotine, some withdrawal effects occur. These symptoms are strongest after a few days of withdrawal but can last for several weeks and even a few months. That said, nicotine is eliminated from the body quickly: 4 days after stopping smoking, no more nicotine is detected in the blood. Here are the main symptoms of weaning:

  • Tension and irritability;
  • At times, strong cravings for smoking;
  • Dry mouth and throat;
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia;
  • Headaches ;
  • An increase in appetite
  • An increased desire to eat sweets;
  • Diarrhea, constipation and stomach pain.

People at risk for Smoking (Weaning tobacco)

All people who smoke are likely to become addicted to tobacco but to varying degrees. Recent research 34-36 is becoming increasingly clear that certain genetic characteristics   greatly increase the risk of cigarette addiction   and lung cancer. This would explain why not all smokers are equal before the cigarette. For the most vulnerable, addiction is often acquired during adolescence and can occur a few days or weeks after the first cigarette are smoked.

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Smoking prevention (Tobacco withdrawal)

Can we prevent?
The best way to not become addicted to nicotine is obviously not to start smoking. Several socio-educational campaigns are orchestrated each year by the government authorities. Many efforts are concentrated on young people, adolescence being a period during which the majority of smokers burn their first cigarette and develop their smoking habits.

Some laboratories are trying to create vaccines that would reduce the brain’s sensitivity to nicotine. However, it will still be several years before these vaccines are put on the market.

Medical treatment of smoking (Smoking cessation)

His most important factor for successful withdrawal is motivation. The chances of success are better if you want to quit for yourself and not to please others.

There are as many approaches to support a smoker to stop smoking as there are smokers. Indeed, smoking is a behavior determined by multiple factors specific to each individual, including personality, psychological balance, social environment, etc. As a result, the approach to quitting smoking can only be personalized.

Medical resources help to:

  • rebalance brain chemistry by gradually bringing dopamine receptors to be satisfied with normal production: nicotine patches and other drugs;
  • To undo the behavioral mechanisms (more or less conscious) by which cigarettes became inseparable from everyday life: counseling and other support resources.

To rebalance brain chemistry

There are 2 categories of pharmaceuticals that facilitate weaning: nicotine replacement products and medications that play on mood.

Nicotine replacement products

The following products release a certain amount of nicotine into the body. They are available over-the-counter in pharmacies or on prescription (for example, Habitrol and Nicoderm transdermal patches, Nicorette product line, and Thrive lozanges). A treatment normally lasts 10 to 12 weeks. The dose of nicotine is gradually adjusted downward, until it stops completely.

The abstinence total of cigarette and other products of tobacco are necessary during such processing to avoid overdose of nicotine.

  • Transdermal patch. As it releases nicotine gradually, the patch has the advantage of providing a regular and measurable nicotine intake. It is generally suggested to use it 16 hours a day;
  • Chewing gum. With this product, the ex-smoker can decide when he will take nicotine, which allows him to act immediately on his cravings. Many people, however, are uncomfortable with the taste of gum or do not like to chew. The product may cause irritation of the mucous membranes;
  • Lozanges. Tablets which, as they dissolve in the mouth, release nicotine, absorbed by the mucous membranes;
  • Nasal spray. Nicotine reaches the brain faster with the nasal spray than with the patch or gum. The disadvantage of the vaporizer is that it is not as convenient to use as an eraser or a stamp;
  • Inhaler. The inhaler is designed like a cigarette. The person sucks the nicotine into a tube. This product is interesting for people who have trouble getting rid of the habit of putting their hand to their mouths. A disadvantage is that the inhaler must be used frequently to provide a sufficient dose of nicotine. It can also cause irritation in the mouth and throat.

All these substitutes are much less damaging to the body than real tobacco. They are notably deprived of the carcinogenic elements generated by the combustion of tobacco and present little risk of habituation.

Important. If you have insomnia, headaches, palpitations, or tremors because of any of these products, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. These symptoms may be indicative of a nicotine overdose.

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These medications are obtained by prescription.

Bupropion (Zyban). In the mid-1990s, a new milestone was reached in the treatment of smoking. The first drug without nicotine has appeared on the market: bupropion, an antidepressant marketed under the brand Zyban. It acts on the dopamine receptors. It was also the first product that could be taken in tablet form. There are contraindications to the use of bupropion as well as potential side effects.

Varenicline (Champix). This drug works on the nicotine receptors in the brain and reduces the feeling of pleasure felt when smoking a cigarette. It is available in tablet form. By binding the nicotine receptor, varenicline causes a lower pleasure response, while preventing the “real” nicotine from attaching to receptors (in case of relapse). It was introduced to the Canadian market in 2007 and is indicated in adults, in conjunction with a counseling program.

Important. People taking any of these 2 medications should contact their doctor immediately if they experience depressed mood, agitation, hostility, unusual behavior, or suicidal ideation.

To undo the behavioral mechanisms

Counseling and personalized support

The various programs set up by clinics or community-based organizations mainly offer cognitive-behavioral psychological approaches, in which the focus is on modifying the relationship between the individual and the cigarette. Although it is difficult to scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches, most official tobacco control organizations say that cessation programs that integrate counseling are more effective. In addition, those involved in such a process would withdraw in great satisfaction.

It can also be said that, to a lesser extent, the moral and psychological support of a loved one can play the role of counseling.

Moreover, recent studies indicate that the addition of physical activity daily (however brief) the counseling program would reduce the desire to smoke by acting on the psychological components of addiction. Physical exercise also helps maintain a stable weight. Quitting smoking often leads to a slight weight gain: the cigarette causes the body to burn more calories and the former smoker can compensate by eating more.


A strong urge to smoke assails you?

  • Take 5 slow, deep breaths while thinking of something else (a funny situation, a place where you like to be, etc.);
  • Remember the reasons you quit smoking;
  • Drink a big glass of water;
  • Chew gum;
  • Contact a friend.

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