Smoking Addiction: its Components and Causes

Smoking is not about flicking a cigarette out of satisfaction. It is an addiction that not only affects you, but the people surrounding you as well. If you have been planning to quit smoking, here is what you need to know.

Social component

The habit of smoking is a product of socialization, the tendency to repeat patterns of behavior one sees in other persons in the society. It is one way people learn their social skills necessary to live and work in the society, and these skills include bad habits such as smoking. 

If a person is surrounded with smoking individuals, one will more or less adopt these smoking habits; and if he or she tries to break out of that social structure, one would feel anxious of not being accepted by his or her social group. 

People who want to quit should realize that quitting is a self improvement rather than putting one self into the social doldrums.

The need for sucking and chewing

All of us have a need for sucking and chewing. This need is necessary in early infanthood, but it also persists into adult life to some degree. That is why some people use cigarettes as a means to satisfy this need. 

If you want to stop smoking, you can try to satisfy this need by other means, such as chewing gum.

Automatic repeating

Doing something frequently would create a pattern of automatic repetition of that particular behavior, especially if the particular action is done in a distinct recognizable situation. Automatic repetition has an effect of making a person feel safer in one’s daily life and routines.

If you want to quit, try to find in which situations and in which environments you usually take a cigarette. If you determined them, then try to avoid these situations or environments where you used to smoke, or to deliberately alter these situations.

Nicotine used as self-medication

Nicotine, a chemical you see in tobacco products, has a tranquilizing effect—and, ironically, an anti-depressive effect as well—in our nervous system. This makes the smoker feel calm yet more awake in the short time. Meanwhile, smoking helps people with nervousness or depressive symptoms cope with their mental symptoms. 

However, as one gets used to smoking, gradually there will be a need for steadily higher doses of nicotine to give these good effects; and if there is a lack of nicotine in the body, the nervous or depressive feelings will be greater than before.

If you are smoking because of its medicinal effects, then you should try to fid other ways to achieve the same effect, such as engaging in sports or outdoor activities to relieve your depression.

Pleasure component

There is some degree of pleasure that can be attained through smoking, which is a good effect in itself. However in most cases, this good effect is too small compared to the painful effects of smoking, but free will gives temptation for an individual to continue the habit. And as a smoker becomes more addicted to smoking, the pleasure effect will gradually be more difficult to obtain without increasing the doses.

If you are smoking for pleasure, try to find other sources of pleasure instead. Good examples are trying out good food, good music, and even some erotic action.

Genetic component

Not all people get equally dependent to nicotine easily. There are factors not yet fully understood as to what makes some people more easily addicted to smoking than others. Perhaps some persons have receptors on their nerve cells that more easily get triggered by nicotine than others, or maybe some people have more receptors with the ability to get triggered by nicotine, both of which can be looked in the person’s genetic code.

Nervous mechanisms

The normal brain has signal substances with a tranquilizing effect, and substances with a stimulating effect upon nerve cells. Like most narcotic substances, nicotine acts like a signal substance by fitting into receptors on some brain cells. Nicotine attached itself to some receptors and thus gives the nerve cells having these receptors a signal. 

The cells getting such a signal from nicotine will react by secreting another signal substance, dopamine, which influences other cells. Dopamine will tranquilize some brain cells and stimulate others, and the total effect is pleasurable effect of smoking.

However, when nicotine steadily induces dopamine release, the brain will gradually decrease the production of dopamine when nicotine is not present, and the brain will feel a steadily greater need for nicotine to work normally and feel well.