Smoking - Drug Addiction

Smoking is a popular activity for many people who continue to enjoy it even though they are well aware of the health risks.   

The main reason for this is nicotine addiction. Tobacco contains nicotine - a stimulant which affects both the mind and the body. It increases heart rate and breathing and causes a surge of adrenaline which gives that ‘buzz’ that smokers enjoy.

Psychologically, it causes the smoker to feel relaxed as well as stimulated which is due to the production of a chemical called Dopamine. Dopamine is released into the blood stream which causes feelings of pleasure and well being.

Your body becomes accustomed to these effects and its tolerance increases. This means that you require larger amounts or in this case, smoke more cigarettes in order to have the same effects.

This is why it is very difficult to give up smoking.

What does it look like and how is it used?

The main ingredient is tobacco which is made from dried leaves of the tobacco plant. Tobacco contains nicotine which is responsible for people’s addiction to smoking. It is an intensely powerful stimulant which many smokers find difficult to beat.

Tobacco is found in cigarettes, pipes and cigars and snuff (sniffed up the nose). There is a form of tobacco called ‘chewing tobacco’ which is also popular.

Lose tobacco is used in ‘roll ups’  and is often mixed with cannabis or a herbal mixture such as Spice then smoked as a ‘joint’.

What is its street name?

Smoking is also known by the following names:

  • Ciggies
  • Fags
  • Smokes

Who smokes?

All sorts of people are smokers. Young people are attracted to smoking as they see it is a sign of being grown up or a statement of being cool and sophisticated. Others do it as a form of rebellion or to fit in with their peer group.

Learn more about this in our young people and addictions section.

Smoking is also popular with adults, some of whom started when they were young and are still smoking well into middle age or older.

How much does it cost?

A packet of cigarettes costs around £5 for 20 cigarettes.

A 12mg pouch of tobacco costs around £3 and a 25mg pouch around £5.50 or more.

Two pouches of chewing tobacco cost around £15.

What are the effects of smoking?

Smokers claim that it helps them to relax or gives them an energy boost or ‘rush’. They argue that it relieves stress, increases concentration and in the case of women, reduces their appetite and helps them to lose weight.

This is why female smokers claim that stopping smoking would lead to weight gain. Hence this is one of the reasons why they continue to do so. It’s as if the risks of smoking are preferable to putting on weight.

Many smokers find that the first time they smoke they feel sick, dizzy or get a headache.

Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and other chemicals which when inhaled, increases heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. It causes a surge in energy which is due to the release of adrenaline. This causes that energy boost and also acts upon insulin production which smokers believe suppresses their appetite.

Other physical effects include a dry mouth, a decrease in urine production and dizziness.

Psychological effects include a feeling of relaxation and generally being in a good mood. Some smokers find that it calms their nerves or energises them, especially if they smoke first thing in the morning.

Is it easy to become addicted to smoking?

Yes, very. Cigarette smoke contains a substance called nicotine which is extremely powerful and addictive. It is possible to become addicted after just smoking a few cigarettes.

That is how powerful it is.

What happens then is that you become used to the effects of smoking and experience cravings or unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you don’t. So, you light up again in order to prevent these symptoms.

Your mind and body develop a tolerance to the effects of nicotine which means that you need to smoke more and more cigarettes to get these effects as well as stopping any cravings. It can get to the point where you are constantly smoking throughout the day.

If you go for a certain period of time without a cigarette then you will find that you are anxious, restless and literally, ‘gasping’ for a smoke.

It is not the type of habit in which you can have the occasional cigarette. Most people find that they either smoke heavily or not at all.

The withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Edginess
  • Constant hunger
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness

Some people find that they generally feel unwell when not smoking.

What are the risks of smoking?

The risks are well documented and can be fatal. Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, poor circulation, reduces fertility (both men and women) and increases the risks of many other diseases.

These include:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cancers of the nose, throat, kidney, pancreas, larynx, bladder and cervix.
  • Sexual problems such as impotence
  • Risk of infertility in both sexes
  • Ageing
  • Peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation)
  • Diabetes
  • Chest Infections
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dental problems such as gum disease
  • Asthma

There are particular problems for women who smoke during pregnancy which include risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, low birth weight and poor development in the child.

If you have children there is the risk of them inhaling ‘second hand smoke’ which causes health problems such as asthma and ear, nose and throat infections. They may also go on to be smokers themselves when they are older.

Second hand smoke or ‘passive smoking’  is another issue which is open to debate. There are arguments for and against this but it is claimed that there are health risks from inhaling someone’s cigarette smoke.

Smoking is expensive, stains your teeth and clothes, dulls your taste buds and sense of smell and overall, is considered socially unacceptable.

If you are a smoker who wants to give up but doesn’t know where to start then visit our stopping smoking guide.


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