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The nicotine myth- 3 things I have learnt about smoking

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

A long time ago in a community centre far far away I was once a youth worker. Part of my job was to go into schools and educate young people about the dangers of smoking, in order to do this I had to attend a training course given by the NHS. As with many “training courses” a day spent listening to someone follow a series of bland PowerPoint slides has left me with little long term knowledge however the one piece of information that stuck with me throughout is the following statement “ Nicotine is more addictive than heroin” that was a statement that was peddled hard during the NHS training and was seen as an effective message to stop young people from smoking. I used it myself many times whilst engaging with young people. It wasn’t till I started to study hypnotherapy that I started to come to the belief that this was a myth. Of course there are scientific study’s to back up the claim that nicotine is more addictive than heroin but I began to look beyond that and without going down a conspiracy rabbit hole the following 3 reasons helped me question the statement “nicotine is more addictive than heroin”


 



1/ With any substance addiction our body will eventually build up a resilience to the effects, our brain and body are designed to adapt and will counteract any chemical we regularly consume. In order to experience any further effect of said substance, we have to either increase the dose or the frequency of our consumption. This process of spiralling addiction is seen in many drug addicts, especially Heroin addicts, enough is never enough and they continually peruse more and more by whatever means necessary. The argument against nicotine falling into this spiralling addiction category is that the amount someone smokes is usually defined by other factors than their desire, people settle on a daily amount of cigarettes that they can afford, people can have a full nights sleep without their body craving a cigarette in the middle of the night. People can put themselves in situations where they have to control their desire and they do so, long haul flights would be one example of this. Can the same thing be said for heroine addicts? How many smokers do you know that turn to crime in order to feed their increasing habit? Smokers settle on a daily consumption that can increase or decrease due to financial or social factors. The general pattern of heroin addiction is one of ever increasing consumption until overdose in many cases. Have you ever heard of a nicotine overdose?

 



2/ As I mentioned above if we put any substance into our body regularly, our brain and body will automatically produce chemicals to counteract this substance. This process is known as homeostasis, basically our whole mind/body system is designed to keep things steady and to counteract any changes in our environment. It could be said we are continually seeking balance, using that metaphor to illustrate an addiction- think of a see saw, the more of a substance we put in our bodies the more chemicals our body produces to counteract the effects to maintain some balance. When we suddenly take away a substance that our body has come to expect, this is when we experience withdrawal symptoms- it is like the somebody suddenly jumping off the other end of the see saw….. 🤕 ouch. The withdrawal symptoms of heroin are well documented both socially and scientifically, I have never heard of an addict going cold turkey without severe withdrawal symptoms. However since being a hypnotherapist I have helped people stop smoking both gradually and suddenly, I have never encountered someone with severe withdrawal symptoms and most people find they have none. This to me suggests that smoking is a behavioural addiction as much as chemical and that of course there is an effect on putting all those chemicals into your body but they are minimal in comparison to heroin.


 



3/ All this got me thinking back to my youth worker days- Why was one of the only things that stuck with me from the NHS training I received the statement that “Nicotine is more addictive than heroin”? Why was it a major part of the message that I was told to convey?

Now I’m not trying to be controversial and I’m not a conspiracy theorist … but I am a realist , this is not a scientific evidence based article, its just my opinion based on my experience as a youth worker and a hypnotherapist so I’ll leave you with these two figures and you can make your own mind up on how strong or weak the chemical addiction of nicotine is In comparison to heroin🤷🏻‍♂️ and why this message is part of the health message🤔


- So far this year Tobacco companies have spent £15,903,166 on lobbying the US government, I couldn’t find uk figures but I assume they will be proportionate


- In 2021 tobacco duty tax receipts in the UK amounted to approximately £9.96 BILLION😳


Despite it being seemingly discouraged over the last 10-15 years there is still a lot of money in keeping people addicted to smoking, and I don’t think large Tabacco companies would spend millions on lobbying every year without expecting some return. As a Hypnotherapist I am very aware of the suggestive power of the statement “nicotine is more addictive than heroin” and the effect it can have on people trying to quit.

 


The whole point in me writing this article is to show that I have come to the belief that smoking (nicotine) is largely a behavioural addiction and that any smoker can overcome this addiction with minimal or no side effects. Wether you wish to do this with my help or without I believe you can learn to stop smoking just as quickly and easily as you learnt to start smoking. If you would like to know more about addiction or how hypnotherapy can help you stop smoking please get in touch and I will happily help you however I can. Thanks for taking the time to read this……




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