understanding addiction to cigarettes
Remember, smoking is not simply a bad habit—it’s an addiction. The drug inside tobacco that people are addicted to is called nicotine. Just like with other addictions, people who are addicted to cigarettes have a compulsive need to smoke—their body craves regular doses of nicotine.
When someone smokes, it will often lead to changes in their brain and nervous system. These are real physical differences! The brain will now be dependent on the nicotine and has ‘rewired’ itself. Because of this physical dependency, if a person stops smoking for a period of time they will start experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. This is the brain and body adjusting to no longer having nicotine in the system.
Withdrawal from smoking and nicotine is often uncomfortable. It has many physical symptoms and some people are not able to handle these feelings. They may also find the cravings for nicotine too hard to resist. This is why some people who try quitting relapse, or slip up.
Because the withdrawal symptoms are real, it’s important to be patient with someone who is trying to quit. It takes time for the brain to adjust itself to not receiving nicotine. It also takes time and will power to break habits and routines built around smoking, and to replace them with new healthier choices. Being supportive is the best thing you can do for a friend or family member who is trying to quit.