Nicotine Use Disorders and Homoeopathy
When you think of addicts, what image comes to mind? Do you see dirty and disheveled people huddled on an old mattress in an abandoned building, waiting for the next fix? Do you picture businesspeople huddled outside a city building on a rainy afternoon furtively smoking cigarette? Of course, both these images are accurate, because the nicotine in tobacco is a psychoactive substance that produces patterns of dependence, tolerance and withdrawal – nicotine use disorders.
In 1942, a Scottish physician Lennox Johnson “shot up” nicotine extract and found after 80 injections that he liked it more than cigarettes and felt deprived without it. This colourless, oily liquid – called nicotine after Jean Nicot, who introduced tobacco to the French court in the 16th century – is what gives smoking its pleasurable qualities.
DSM-IV-TR does not describe an intoxication pattern for nicotine. Rather, it lists withdrawal symptoms, which include depressed mood, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, increased appetite and weight gain. Nicotine in small doses stimulates the central nervous system; it can also relieve stress and improve mood. But it can also cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. High doses can blur your vision, cause confusion, lead to convulsions, and sometimes even cause death. Once smokers are dependent on nicotine, going without it causes these withdrawal symptoms. If you doubt the addictive power of nicotine, consider that the rate of relapse among people trying to give up drugs is equivalent among those using alcohol, heroine and cigarettes.
Nicotine is inhaled into the lungs, where it enters the bloodstream. Only 7 to 20 seconds after a person inhales the smoke, the nicotine reaches the brain. Nicotine appears to stimulate specific receptors – nicotine acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) – in the midbrain reticular formation and the limbic system, the site of the “pleasure pathway”. Some evidence also points to how nicotine may affect the fetal brain, possibly increasing the likelihood that children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy will smoke later in life. Smokers actually dose themselves throughout the day, in an effort to keep nicotine at a steady level in the bloodstream (10 to 50 nanograms per ml).
Smoking has been linked with signs of negative affect, such as depression, anxiety and anger. For example, many people who quit smoking but later resume report that feeling of depression or anxiety were responsible for the relapse. This finding suggests that nicotine may help improve mood.
Causes of Nicotine Use Disorders
Why do some people use psychoactive drugs or nicotine in the form of cigarette smoking without abusing or becoming dependent on them? Why do some people stop smoking cigarettes or use them in moderate amounts after being dependent on them, and others continue a lifelong pattern of dependence despite their efforts to stop? These questions continue to occupy the time and attention of numerous researchers throughout the world. Nicotine use or cigarette smoking once thought to be the result of moral weakness, are now believed to be influenced by a combination of biological and psychological factors.
The Psychology of Smoking
Why did you start smoking?
Every pack of cigarettes has a warning stating that smoking can be harmful to your health. You are not stupid. You understand this. You feel the harmful effects every time that you cough or have a sore throat, but this has not stopped you from smoking. Why? Because the reasons for smoking are mostly psychological. People are seduced to try tobacco by the glamorization of smoking in the movies and in advertisements. Addiction to nicotine makes it hard to quit smoking once you have started.
Here is a list of the reasons why people start smoking. Look at them carefully and think about your own experience. Most of these reasons are related to how you perceive yourself in the company of others. You generally start smoking in an attempt to change your self-image and appear more attractive, more manly, more feminine, or more intelligent. Sometimes you start smoking in a misguided attempt to calm your nerves, cope with stress, or lose weight, but smoking does not help to solve the source of your problems or to compensate for poor eating habits.
Reasons why people start to use tobacco:
- On a dare to show that you are not timid or afraid.
- To fit with the crowd (all my friends do it)
- To appear sophisticated or cool
- To be grown-up
- To assert your independence
- As a sign of protest, rebellion, or to defy authority
- Free samples from friends or advertisers
- Influences from people you respect and admire
- Parents or relatives smoked
- Images of famous actors, movie stars, or role models
- Famous sports players who use chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes.
- Famous scientists (Einstein is the prototype of intellectual smokers.
He looks so proud with a pipe in his mouth.)
- Portrayals by cigarette advertisements
- To calm your nerves
- As a kind of “air freshener” when using the toilet
For selecting a Constitutional Homoeopathic Medicine, these above mentioned reasons/causes are very much helpful. They will guide us the true nature of a patient as for example a Lycopodium patient will take on this habit of smoking just to impress others and to prove that he is not afraid of anyone at all which is contrary to his Cowardice nature. A dumb Baryta or Calcarea will follow the herd, “Everybody in my class smoke, so do I”. Nitric Acid or Mercurius will go against their authority’s wish, “How dare he slap me for having a cigarette, now I will see how they can stop me.” Argentum Nitricum and Arsenic Album’s own apprehensions and anxieties compel them to start smoking. Natrum Mur or Aurum Met take on smoking just to hide their hidden grief. “Let’s try something new today” nature of Medorrhinum and Nux Vomica’s business tensions and a need of some stimulant make them a chain smoker. Caladium’s desire to be in a euphoric state even though for a few minutes will compel him to carry on smoking. In order to hide his feeling of inadequacy or incompetence Anacardium will take on this habit. Sulphur’s curious nature will force him to try why so many people smoke, what will happen after smoking….. etc etc.
So, this is a way how we must select a constitutional medicine.
How Smoking Affects the Body?
• Heart disease. Smoking is responsible for 30 percent of all heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths.
• Cancer. It is responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths each year.
• Lung problems. Smoking is responsible for 82 percent of deaths due to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
• Smoking delays healing of peptic ulcers of the stomach and duodenum.
• Its effects on blood vessels cause chronic pains in the legs (claudication) which can progress to gangrene and amputations of the toes or feet.
• Causes wrinkling of the skin of the face to develop earlier in chronic smokers. On average they look 5 years older than non-smokers of the same age do.
• Smoking also brings on an earlier menopause in women, advancing it by an average of 5 years.
• It reduces women’s fertility and delays conception after they stop using oral contraceptives.
• It impairs erections in middle-aged and older men and may affect the quality of their sperm. It seems to “sedate” sperm and to impair their motility. This is reversed after stopping smoking.
• Smoking accelerates the rate of osteoporosis, a disease which causes bones to weaken and fracture more easily.
• Women who smoke during pregnancy damage their unborn child, causing effects that last throughout the child’s life. The risks of miscarriage, premature birth, and death of the baby in its first year of life are all significantly increased.
If we take a fatalistic view of life, nothing is important. However, deep down inside, we feel that even though our life is finite, we can accomplish much. It is this desire to live a long, healthy life with our friends and loved ones that can provide a motivation to quit smoking.
Many smokers feel that they are the masters of their own destiny and that they could quit smoking anytime they want, but then they convince themselves that they enjoy smoking and that they will not quit today. As time passes, the habit becomes ingrained until it becomes a lifestyle and an addiction that causes physical discomfort if stopped. The only way to stop smoking is to overcome the psychological dependence on tobacco and the physical addiction to nicotine. And Homoeopathy has quite a wonderful role to play in overcoming both these.
Homoeopathic approach on BAD EFFECTS OF SMOKING AND QUITING THE HABIT OF SMOKING – Doctors should guide smokers properly about the way to quit the habit without suffering from withdrawal symptoms since many a time withdrawal symptoms and cravings make the quitter tumble down again into the debilitating habit. It is ultimately the mind which controls. Homoeopathy treatment can support one’s mind to cope up situation for quitting the habit.
To remove bad effects of smoking, removing the habit is a must, without which bad effects cannot be rooted out. Many succeed in getting out of the habit for some time and not ultimately ending in quitting. In course of time, they find it difficult to overcome craving/temptation. Homoeopathy offers an effective, gentle alternative for the smoker who’s ready to quit by reducing the craving for nicotine, increasing will power, and ease withdrawal symptoms.
If we look into Synthesis Repertory (9th Edition) we will find following symptoms or rubrics associated with bad effects of Smoking or Nicotine.
Considering the above mentioned rubrics the most common remedies that come after Repertorisation are:
Homoeopathic medicines can really do wonders in mind and manners. Homoeopathy can help smoker quit smoking by reducing the craving and to combat the bad effects of smoking. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of homoeopathic remedies is that they work without toxicity or side effects. But it can only help if you have wish/interest to quit. Also keep in mind that only functional changes can be reverted to normalcy, whereas structural changes cannot be revoked to normal. So, to evade bad effects, it is better to take effort to quit at the earliest.
Homoeopathic medicines commonly used in cases of bad effects of smoking and for de-addiction are:
These medicines should be taken under the advice and diagnosis of a qualified Homoeopath. Homoeopathy works well in conjunction with a variety of strategies. Give the smokers you know a homoeopathic medicine that will help them kick the habit and take charge of their health. They’ll probably be around a lot longer to thank you for it.
Say goodbye to smoking habit and lead a bright life.