Why it is Hard to Quit Smoking

Learn about nicotine addiction and understand why quitting smoking is so hard.Many ex-smokers agree that quitting cigarettes was one of the hardest challenges they’ve ever faced.

While beating your addiction isn’t easy it’s definitely possible, and understanding its nature is the first step on the way to long-term success.

What Makes Cigarettes Addictive

Cigarettes are highly addictive due to a combination of the physical effects nicotine has on the body strengthened by emotional and behavioral factors. Tobacco companies are known to strive to increase the addictive properties of cigarettes by increasing the nicotine content and adding various chemical substances to the tobacco.

Physical Addiction

The primary addictive substance found in cigarettes is nicotine, a stimulant drug. A single cigarette contains about 1-2 milligrams of nicotine. It stimulates the nicotine receptor in the brain and causes it to release of dopamine increases endorphin levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and a part of the brain’s reward system. It’s released in order to let us know that activities, like eating or having sex, are pleasurable.

Endorphin release causes a feeling of euphoria, relaxation and stress relief. These effects quickly dissipate leaving the smoker craving another fix. The quickly increasing tolerance for nicotine means that it will take more and more to satisfy the urge, eventually leaving the smoker dependent on tobacco to feel normal.

If the intake of tobacco stops and the nicotine receptors are no longer being stimulated, the body goes into withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include irritability, restlessness, depression, headaches, insomnia and increased appetite. These effects will increase in intensity until eventually reaching a plateau and slowly disappearing. Some of the ways to manage the physical effects of withdrawal is nicotine replacement therapy or prescription non-nicotine medication.

Emotional Addiction

Many smokers use cigarettes as a way to relieve stress, anger or anxiety. When they have a hard time dealing with certain negative emotions their natural reaction is to reach for a cigarette. This impulse hurts them in the long run by furthering their addiction.

Stress is a natural and unavoidable part of life. An important part of quitting smoking is finding constructive ways to deal with it and controlling it without cigarettes. Simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can be a huge help in handling these anxieties.

Cigarettes are also known to cause a feeling of alertness. A hit of nicotine can make you feel smarter and more focused. When trying to quit the feelings of irritability, restlessness and poor concentration can be an impulse to smoke, just to feel normal again.

Behavioral Addiction

A smoker learns to associate certain situations, places or activities with cigarettes. For example seeing someone smoke, drinking coffee or taking a break from work.  Smoking becomes a part of their daily routine and a hard to break a habit as well as an addiction. For many people smoking eventually becomes a social ritual they share with their friends and family or away to socialize at work and meet new people.

When trying to quit, you may find yourself in a situation that gives you the urge to smoke. These situations are known as triggers.

Learning to identify your individual trigger is a huge part beating your addiction. Try keeping a diary for a week and noting the circumstances of each cigarette you smoke. Eventually, you’ll be able to identify the patterns and understand what situation you should avoid or come up with ways to deal with your triggers. Once you know what’s causing you to smoke you’ll be able to better fight the cravings.

To learn more about how to quit smoking for good, visit Quit Smoking Guide.

Check out more of our great articles:

The Effects of Smoking

Top 10 Tips and Tricks for Quitting

• Secondhand Smoke: Think Twice

• Support Your Quitter

• Nicotine Dependence and Freedom