Smoking Dependency: Finding a Way Out

By Christina Morris, L.Ac.

A smoking addiction can be a very difficult habit to overcome. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines an addiction as compulsive drug seeking and use, even in the face of negative health consequences. Smoking has been directly linked to many health conditions and diseases. Due to the highly addictive nature of smoking many people find it extremely difficult to quit. Smokers spend thousands of dollars a year decreasing the quality of their own health, and often the health of others. However, there are ways to stop smoking and move on to a healthier lifestyle. This article will explore the dangers of smoking as well as provide valuable information on ways to quit smoking. The smoke of tobacco products contains more then 4,000 chemicals including 43 that are known carcinogens. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco products. It is absorbed through the skin and mucosal linings of the nose and mouth and is also absorbed in the lungs shortly after inhalation. Nicotine affects many biochemical reactions in the body; it stimulates the adrenal glands causing a release of epinephrine (adrenaline) creating an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and glucose levels. Nicotine also suppresses the output of insulin from the pancreas and affects the levels of certain hormones.

Smoking creates many imbalances in the body that can lead to various organ diseases and related ailments. Smoking is known to cause lung cancer and respiratory disorders, emphysema, coronary artery disease, skin cancers and cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, kidney and bladder. Every organ and every function of the body affected by smoke inhalation has a risk of becoming diseased.

Smoking has a profound effect on women’s health. Women smokers have a tendency to reach menopause at an earlier age and have higher risks of uterine and cervical cancers as well as osteoporosis. Female smokers are more likely to experience problems with fertility and pregnancies: they have more miscarriages, premature deliveries, and stillbirths. Babies of mothers who smoke have an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions.

There are many ways to overcome smoking. Western medicine offers many medications, that often have adverse side effects, but can be a successful form of treatment. Acupuncture and herbs is an alternative therapy that is both safe and effective in the treatment of smoking addiction. Acupuncture and herbs have been used for years to treat various addictions. This form of treatment can relieve stress and tension, increase willpower, detoxify and balance the body, relieve withdrawal symptoms, and diminish cravings. Acupuncture treatments usually last 45 minutes and consist of a series of sessions. There are also many organizations that can provide information and programs to help people stop smoking. Two highly recommended organizations are the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Association.

Nutritional support is important when trying to quit. Smoking leaches nutrients from the body, making the body susceptible to deficiencies that can lead to disease. Nutritional support can restore these depleted nutrients and aid in overall health. It is important to eat green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, stay away from junk foods and caffeine, drink at least 6-8 glasses of water, and avoid fried, greasy, or spicy foods. Supplements such as a Vitamin B complex, folic acid, and Vitamin C may be additionally added to the diet.

It is important to find support in the decision to stop smoking. Avoid situations where others are smoking, and try to avoid stress. Realize that cravings usually last 3-5 minutes. If a craving hits, get a breath of fresh air and try to relax. Think of the health benefits and the money saved from not smoking. Think of the 4,000 toxic chemicals that you are avoiding. Many people stop smoking each day and are able to enjoy clean breaths of air.