Cigarettes are clearly a hunger-related addiction, just like chocolate, coffee, sugar and salt. While this may sound, in the true style of addiction, like not a very big deal, messing with your “hunger system” is a big reason cigarettes earn the top of addiction’s totem pole.
The mind-bend doesn’t stop there, by far. The 4000 additives in cigarettes include Carbon Monoxide, Ammonia, Arsenic and Formaldehyde, and studies have shown smoking doubles your risk of depression.
THE BAD NEWS
Cigarettes are one of the harshest and physically-brutal habits you can pick up. The dangers, as with many drugs, are both real and often hard to see. It’s believed cigarettes, because of the stew of thousands of additives, somehow reprogram your brain. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! This article discusses unique ways cigarettes act on the brain.
THE GOOD NEWS?
There’s not much good news about cigarettes. But I’ll ride the line and, in the interest of full disclosure, share an odd experience of mine.
Based on being able to switch away from cigarettes to my vape, this is an experience I wouldn’t have been able to have in the days before vapes, and I also imagine I’m not the only one.
First, I switched to just vape. This is purely nicotine, which is by far the most addictive component of a cigarette. I found the change sufficient as a substitute, though a bit, in an indescribable way, imperfect.
This is despite the advancement of the vapes to be well-made. No matter what, I was fine, but there was no question there was something missing. This went on for at least a year – no cigarettes.
SWITCH THINGS UP
Then I had a cigarette. I almost immediately chain-smoked. It was deliriously, indulgently intoxicating. Not only, after all this time, did I immediately “handle” the stronger hit of the cigarette, not only was I immediately enticed, but an odd additional thing happened: My mind felt completely “at home.”
My experience, in the way of an “experiment in hindsight,” benefitted from my having recently stopped taking a prescription medication. After four years I had weaned myself off Quetiapine, and it was the only drug I took (mostly for insomnia). The Quetiapine also relaxed my anxiety. I did not expect the cigarette to, but it replaced the anxiety relaxing feeling I had been missing.
The cigarette went right into my lungs, but felt like it was going right to my brain. From there, it felt like it sent immediate instructions to parts of my physical body that had been waiting for the cigarette – within hours I felt physically more balanced and “normal.” In my opinion, there is nothing that helps your digestion work better, for a smoker, than a cigarette, and this same feeling overcame my whole body. In a mental sense, it was like I was physically “fixed.” My mind felt more relaxed and “happy,” in the sense of a person feeling happy if they had been dwelling on starving, and then ate.
In my book, “A Candle Lit,” I call this “Hunger Theory,” the proposition that addiction masquerades as hunger!
THE GOOD NEWS IS BAD
The good news about cigarettes is, unfortunately, you’re hooked on them in a way that could only be accomplished by mad scientists trying to get you hooked. It seems your body suffers from the use of cigarettes, but your mind loves them.
To put it another way, starting smoking cigarettes is bad for you physically, and can promote depression, but once you’re “hooked,” quitting smoking clearly seems to be bad for you, mentally, and, by association (with the brain), physically, too! It’s lose-lose.
THE CIGARETTE PILL
The good news might be hidden, where the mix of effects inadvertently soothes and awakens; but does it cause, perpetuate, or heal depression?
Scientists (those who are not mad) should study cigarettes and the brain, not only to help people quit, but to create a pill to treat depression and bipolar.
For a non-smoker, cigarettes can cause and accommodate depression, part of a long list of reasons not to smoke. But for a person who’s brain’s already been programmed by cigarettes, who is twice as likely as average to be depressed, the ingredients make him feel better.
This simple concept, the “cigarette pill,” still probably prolongs depression while being used, but could it save someone’s life?
WHAT I LEARNED
Cigarettes are distinctively different than just nicotine. A primary driver of my theory has to do with dosage. But the unique and somewhat frightening thing that makes the cigarette cocktail intriguing is the inclusion of both strong stimulants and depressants. In fact, nicotine all by itself acts as both stimulant and depressant. It’s as if an addiction genius invented the cigarette.
Part of the magic that makes it so powerfully-addictive is the size of the actual cigarette. It’s bigger than it needs to be.
When you have a vape, and you just hit on it when you want it, you put it down when you’re done. But with a cigarette, you put it down and it’s still burning, asking you to pick it back up again, and the scenario inevitably results in your taking more hits of it, just instead of putting it out.
While this is happening, every hit you get is stronger than on a vape, based on my comparison. And so you’re borderline dizzying yourself, while at the same time drugs are also calming your brain.
THE MAD SCIENTIST THEORY
If you think about the stresses on your mind when it’s being blown up like a balloon, then softened and cushioned and made to feel well, simultaneously pushed, pressed then cured, and all the while “pushed too far,” couldn’t this push you off your center of calmness permanently?
If it were the mad genius’s intention for you to be super-addicted, he would try to push your brain into a new shape, one that didn’t feel quite right without the stimulation and dumbing down.
I think he may have succeeded!
NOT A RESEARCH-FREE ARTICLE
This information comes from the site drugabuse.gov:
“As with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuits and also increases levels of the chemical messenger dopamine, which reinforces rewarding behaviors. Studies suggest that other chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as acetaldehyde, may enhance nicotine’s effects on the brain.”
“Nicotine acts in the brain by stimulating the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) and by increasing levels of the chemical messenger dopamine.”
The following is from a deep, well written article by K. H. Ginzel, M.D., a Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Arkansas.
“Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. These include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT.”
“But not all of the chemicals in your cigarettes are there for taste enhancement. For example, a chemical very similar to rocket fuel helps keep the tip of the cigarette burning at an extremely hot temperature. This allows the nicotine in tobacco to turn into a vapor so your lungs can absorb it more easily.”
“By adding ammonia to your cigarettes, nicotine in its vapor form can be absorbed through your lungs more quickly. This, in turn, means your brain can get a higher dose of nicotine with each puff.”
Cyanide, arsenic, lead and formaldehyde are listed by the website as among the thousands of added ingredients in cigarettes.
“The witch’s brew of poisons invades the organs and tissues of smokers and nonsmokers, adults and children, born as well as unborn, and causes cancer, emphysema, heart disease, fetal growth retardation and other problems during pregnancy. The harm inflicted by all other addictions combined pales in comparison. Smoking-related illness, for example, claims in a few days as many victims as cocaine does in a whole year. Hence, disease is in a cigarette.”