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Alcohol & Other Drugs

Tobacco Addiction

Cunning, baffling and powerful

Marianne Linthorne, RN

Reprinted from "Tobacco" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 3 (4), pp. 17-18

stock photoI work in an environment where tobacco is treated with respect. It is carefully tied in white, yellow, black and red pieces of cloth, each representing a different race. The tobacco is then offered to Mother Earth as a token of thanks for her many gifts, such as medicinal plants, berries and flowers. When an animal is killed, tobacco is offered to acknowledge the animal for giving its life so man can eat. It fills the bowls of the pipe in prayer ceremonies.

This reverent attitude is hard to grasp when we know tobacco kills. We are reminded of this each time we peel the wrap off of a package of cigarettes or open a can of chew. Hundreds of studies confirm the fact that smoking causes heart disease, cancer or lung disease.

It’s pretty baffling why anyone would consider having an affair with nicotine. The answer lies in addiction.

I recently attended a conference on addictions facilitated by Dr. Robert Ross, an addiction specialist in Vernon. He posed the question: “If there were a prohibition on tobacco, to what extent would you go to get nicotine?” This interesting query fuelled a lively discussion. One participant shared how she had left her young children alone to go buy a couple of packs of cigarettes, only to arrive home to find her children terrified and crying, looking for mom. I myself have rummaged through the ashtray looking for smokeable butts.

These behaviours and a myriad of others are big indicators of the addiction process, which affects our self-esteem and leaves us feeling powerless.

The old lament, “I have to quit smoking,” is often heard. As with any addiction, quitting tobacco can be a difficult task. The initial physical withdrawal from nicotine takes from 48 to 72 hours. However, as with all addictions, the obsession of the mind can be a lifelong battle.

There are different methods of quitting. The two most common are total abstinence and harm reduction. The premise of harm reduction is to gradually decrease the nicotine levels in the body. This is done with chewing a gum containing nicotine. The other choice is a patch that you apply to your skin once a day and that releases nicotine into the body. These products help decrease the uncomfortable physical symptoms that accompany cessation of nicotine. The option of total abstinence, or going ‘cold turkey,’ can be quite challenging physically.

Whatever choice you make, remember how cunning an addiction can be, and how easy it is to give in. Having support from others with the same struggle often decreases the chances of relapse. There are even 12-step programs to help support your decision to quit.1

Remember, your desire to quit and become healthy can be much stronger than the foe of addiction. Each time you choose not to smoke, congratulate yourself. You are mastering one of the hardest-to-quit addictions of all.

 
About the author

Marianne is a Registered Nurse, presently working at Round Lake Treatment Centre in Armstrong, BC. She has worked in the addictions field for over 25 years and has been a non-smoker for 20 years

 

Footnote:
  1. There are three communities in BC currently running Nicotine Anonymous groups: Qualicum Beach, Okanagan Falls and Victoria. There are also internet meetings offered for anyone. Go to www.nicotine-anonymous.org and search for Canada under the Meetings tab.

 

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