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30 Apr
2010

Is Nicotine Really Addictive?

Nicotine is a substance that is important to the economy of the planet. Yet it is a substance that even most of its users know very little about. For many years nicotine and smoking were pretty much the same thing, but now you can get nicotine on its own in the form of gums, patches, and inhalers. This is a substance that has high toxicity and is lethal in small doses – so why is it able to provide significant revenue for an industry, and for those governments that place high duty on the purchase of cigarettes. The reason is that nicotine is believed to be highly addictive. But it is believed to be highly addictive by only some experts, while other experts are convinced it is nothing of the sort.

There is a world of difference between being addicted, in the clinical sense, to something and to really liking it or liking how it makes you feel. Sex isn’t addictive, yet most people like it, enjoy it, and engage in it over a period of many decades. Those same people, if it isn’t available, may find themselves wishing for a suitable partner and thinking about it a lot. That’s not an addiction. That’s a desire. But as soon as you get engrossed in something that captivates your attention and interest, then thoughts of sex disappear.

I see a lot of smokers who come to me for help in stopping smoking. Around half of them believe they are addicted to nicotine; around a quarter believe it is part addiction part habit; and the rest see it as purely a habit. The interesting thing is that there is no correlation between the number of cigarettes a smoker smokes per day and their beliefs about it being a habit or an addiction.

No one doubts that heroine is an addictive substance. There is also no doubt that some heroine addicts commit crimes to fund their habit. Now it may be that cigarettes are so readily available, and smokers organise their smokes so carefully that a smoker never runs out of cigarettes – but still it’s difficult to imagine a normally law-abiding smoker who has run out of cigarettes breaking into the local tobacconist to pick up a packet of twenty because they’ll be insane with craving by morning if they don’t get a cigarette RIGHT NOW.

That must surely cast a shadow of doubt on the addictiveness of tobacco smoking.

One of the factors of significance in addiction is habituation. Habituation is what happens when the body gets used to, or tolerates, a drug that is taken on a regular basis. It means that the same dose, over time, gives less and less effect. So one of the characteristics of addiction is that the dose slowly increases. Those of you who have taken drugs like valium (diazepam), or other benzodiazepenes, will be familiar with this effect. The first few days of taking them put your world back to normal, but by the time you visit the doctor a week later you are suffering again and so he ups the dose. Then a month or two later the dose is increased again or the drug changed to one with a stronger effect.

Cigarette smokers have invariably smoked the same number of cigarettes per day for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years or more.

That alone must surely cast a shadow of doubt on the addictiveness of tobacco smoking.

When there’s a myth that’s so pervasive within the culture that it has become a Belief, I look to see who benefits. Clearly in my own country (the UK) four powerful groups benefit: the tobacco industry, the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the National Health Service.

· the tobacco industry makes enormous profits for itself.

· the Government raises Revenue from every tobacco product sold.

· the Pharmaceutical Industry sells nicotine delivery systems and ‘anti-smoking’ drugs.

· the National Health Service attracts massive funding to treat smoking-related disease.

Just to give an idea of the huge size of the smoking ‘pie’; in 2004 Gallaher, third largest UK tobacco company, paid Duty of £5,500,000,000 and claimed a pre-tax profit of £429,000,000.

In the same year, Imperial Tobacco, the largest UK tobacco company paid £8,000,000,000 Duty, and claimed a pre-tax profit of £688,000,000.

In comparison to that the treatment of smoking related disease means the National Health Service can attract £1,500,000,000 per year from the Government – a drop in the ocean compared to the duty that tobacco sales raise. So from the Government’s point of view it makes more economic sense to keep smokers smoking and simply invest a small portion of the Revenue that they pour into Government coffers to pay for medical professionals to look after them when they get sick.

Could this have anything to do with the reason that when smoker’s seek medical help to quit smoking, they are offered nicotine replacement therapy, or Zyban (actually an anti-depressant)? These treatments don’t have a very good track record, but they do keep the Pharmaceutical Industry happy.

Now I’m not suggesting conspiracy here. Just economics. We all know, just like when governments decide that wars are to be fought and individual lives and suffering become meaningless, that with economics money is all that matters, people don’t (except when we need your vote). Just like wars, the economics of smoking is filled with propaganda.

If somebody tells you something enough times, then you may begin to believe it.

The main propaganda that is promoted in relation to smoking is that nicotine is physiologically addictive.

I have treated plenty of 20 a day smokers who happily sit on a 10-12 hour transatlantic flight, enjoying the book, movie, view, conversation… and only ‘crave’ a cigarette the minute they get off the plane and into an area where smoking is allowed. I have never met a smoker who gets up in the middle of the night for a cigarette. Even after they get up they shower, enjoy breakfast, and it isn’t until they sit down to enjoy the mug of tea or coffee that they light up – at last! Yet they can be lighting up at the rate of one an hour throughout the day.

This isn’t addiction – it’s a habit.

Hypnosis could well be the very best treatment to break a habit, because a habit is purely a mind thing.

Hypnosis makes it very easy to just change your mind.

You will agree that tobacco is big business. The Tobacco Barons, the Pharmacy Kings, and the Men from the Ministry are not going to allow Billions to slip through their fingers. If smokers believe that they are addicted to something that isn’t an addictive substance, then the only people who are going to suffer are the smokers. Misinformation means Revenue. Setting the record straight is only of benefit to smokers. Setting the record straight is detrimental to vested interests. So you have a choice if you smoke. You can choose to use hypnosis break the habit and then spend your hard-earned cash on something enjoyable.
Michael Hadfield  D.Hyp., MBSCH

So, what do you think?