Addiction to Drugs, Alcohol & Cigarettes

 The brain makes opium like chemicals called encephalins, in response to pain, that act on special receptor cells in the brain and spinal cord to produce pain relief and a sense of euphoria. Drugs such as morphine or heroin act on the same receptor cells producing the same effect as encephalins.

If the same drugs are used for a long period of time, the cells become less responsive to the excessive stimulation and reduce their level of activity. Therefore more drug is needed to achieve the same effect as previously, this is called tolerance.

If the drug is withdrawn, the cells become overactive causing craving, this is dependance. The overactivity of the receptor cells affects other cells causing withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Alcohol doesn’t work on the receptor cells, instead it generally suppresses brain function. A little alcohol produces a sedative effect, whilst a lot produces coma. Alcohol also acts as a diuretic depleting the body of water and producing the typical hangover effects of headache and dry mouth. Sustained use of alcohol will cause the brain to adapt reducing the effects of alcohol and so tolerance develops.

Withdrawal of alcohol may produce symptoms such as craving, nausea and shaking. In severe cases withdrawal may cause hallucination and seizures. People who are alcohol dependant may develop permanent brain damage which is never reversed even after they cease drinking.

There are no specific herbs to help addiction, although herbs such as St.Johns Wort may help in the withdrawal phase.

Always get specialist help when withdrawing from drugs and alcohol. Acupuncture can be particularly helpful to help ease withdrawal symptoms and remove toxins from your system.

A good multivitamin/mineral formula is essential to help replace nutrients destroyed by drugs and alcohol.

Nicotine Addiction

When you quit smoking ~

After 20 minutes:

Your blood pressure drops to normal.

Your pulse rate drops to normal.

Your body temperature of hands and feet increases to normal.

8 hours:

The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

The oxygen level in your blood increases to normal.

24 hours:

The chance of a heart attack decreases.

48 hours:

The nerve ending start regrowing.

Your ability to smell and taste is enhanced.

2 weeks to 3 months:

Your circulation improves.

Walking becomes easier for you.

Your lung function increases up to 30%.

1 to 9 months:

The coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease.

Cilia regrow in your lungs, increasing ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection.

Your body’s overall energy increases.

1 year:

The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.

5 years:

The lung-cancer death rate for an average former smoker (one pack a day) decreases by almost half.

Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker 5 – 15 years after quitting.

The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and oesaphagus is half that of a smoker’s.

10 years:

The lung cancer death rate is similar to that of a non-smokers.

The pre-cancerous cells are replaced.

The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesaphagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases.

15 years:

The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

When confronted with the urge to smoke ~

Cultivate the attitude that you are being relieved of something, rather than being deprived of it.  If you feel deprived you will begin to resent stopping smoking and feel that you are missing out.  Remind yourself that you have chosen freedom from addicition. At times when you waver remind yourself of the following reasons why you are choosing not to smoke any more:-

The younger you started smoking, the younger you can die from a smoking related illness.

Look at what each cigarette contains:

  1.   Nicotine – a habit forming drug.
  2.   Black tars that stick to the lining of your lungs and make it hard to breathe.
  3.   Carbon monoxide and chemicals that poison your lungs.
  4.   Every drag on a cigarette leaves those substances in your lungs.

Nicotine speeds up your heart, makes your nerves shaky. In large doses it’s poisonous.  You quickly become addicted to it.

The tars coat the inside of your lungs and make it hard to breathe.  Smoking cuts down on lung power, it can make it difficult for you to breathe while running or walking.  Try running up a flight of stairs, you might find yourself breathing very heavily and your heart racing.

Your heart has to work harder.  It’s not getting enough oxygen from your damaged lungs.  Children who live with smokers have 6 times as many breathing problems and lung infections as other children.

Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from getting to your heart.  That can cause heart disease.  Smokers are up to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease than non smokers.  The lungs, heart and blood vessels all work together. When you smoke you breathe in nicotine and carbon monoxide.  These chemicals make the blood vessels smaller.  Less oxygen can get to the heart, so the heart has to work harder.  Heart disease causes heart attacks. Smokers who suffer a heart attack have less chance of surviving than non smokers.

The lungs are made of tubes called bronchi.  The tubes lead into tiny balloon like sacs.  In the tubes, tiny hairs called cilia brush mucus out of the airways. Nicotine, the drug in tobacco, paralyses your cilia.  The smoker has to cough to get mucous out of the lungs. That’s what a smoker’s cough is. Smokers cough in the morning because their lungs begin to heal overnight and are trying to clear away poisons.

The bronchial tubes get sore with coughing, trying to clear mucous from the lungs.  The smoker can develop chronic bronchitis making it more painful and difficult to breathe.

People with bronchitis can develop Emphysema, a disease that makes it hard to breathe.   Simple movements like walking and breathing can feel like climbing a mountain.  Smoking accounts for 85% of deaths from Emphysema.  Sufferers eventually die from suffocation.

People who smoke for a long time can get cancer.  The chemicals and tars in cigarettes make the body cells grow out of control.  They form lumps and tumours in the lungs. The cancerous lumps block breathing.

Bladder cancer ~ smoking causes 4,000 cases a year, 40% of the total.

Breast cancer ~ women smokers are 75% more likely to develop this cancer than non smokers.

Cervical cancer ~ up to 33% of cases are caused by smoking.  Women who smoke are 4 times more likely to develop this disease than non smokers.

Gastro-intestinal cancer ~ it is thought that smoking doubles the risk.

Heart disease ~ Kidney cancer ~ smoking causes 40% of all cases.

Laryngeal cancer ~ smokers of 25 or more cigarettes a day are 25 to 30 times more likely to develop this disease than non smokers.

Leukemia ~ the tar or condensed smoke in cigarettes contains cancerous chemicals including benzene, a known cause of leukemia.

Back pain ~ smoking reduces the oxygen in the blood, so the spinal discs do not get enough oxygen.

Diabetes ~ smoking reduces the level of insulin that is vital to a diabetic.  It increases the damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes, ears, hands and feet by depriving them of oxygen.

Osteoporosis ~ women smokers reach menopause 5 to 10 years earlier than non smokers. Their bones tend to become weaker because of lower oestrogen levels.

Premature ageing ~ smokers develop wrinkles earlier than non smokers.  Teeth and fingernails become yellow from nicotine staining.

As soon as you stop smoking, your body begins to repair itself.    The sooner you stop, the less damage you will do to your body.

Save and Spend!

Work out how much money you spend on cigarettes a week then multiply that by 52 to find out how much you will have saved over a year to spend on other things! What else might you spend that money on? A new car, a holiday, decorating your home, clothes?  Make your own list below and start saving for the first item on your list.

 The ten point plan for giving up smoking

1. Give up smoking for YOURSELF. We all have different reasons why we want to stop. We may be in trouble, upsetting or losing our partners, depleting our finances, destroying our health, there are endless reasons which are all valid. The way to stop smoking is to do it for yourself. Other people play a part in giving up but if you are doing it to please someone else, you are less likely to succeed.

2. Deal with things one day at a time. If you try and think about giving up for the rest of your life, it can be too daunting. It’s hard to tackle that amount of time in one go, so just resolve to give up for today. It brings the task down into chunk size pieces and each day you will have a new start. Sometimes people have to cope an hour at a time and that’s O.K. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you relapse and smoke a cigarette, it doesn’t mean you’ve become a smoker again, it only means you’ve had a cigarette.

3. Keep yourself occupied, don’t sit around waiting for the cravings to come, because they will. When you get an urge to smoke (a nicotine fit), wait for 3 to 4 minutes before you give in. Most fits will peak within that time and then begin to die away. Don’t think to yourself “ I really need a cigarette, I’ll just have this one” instead say out loud something like “I’m free of smoking, I am in control of this habit”. Try phoning up someone who is willing to support you, have a shower, brush your teeth, do anything to distract your mind.

4. Avoid situations that you know are going to be triggers for you to smoke. If you usually have a cup of coffee and a cigarette in the morning, change your routine, go for a walk. If you have a cigarette after dinner, get up and do the dishes. Avoid going into social settings where you are normally expected to be one of the smokers.

5. Avoid wherever possible people who will encourage you to smoke, or insist upon smoking in your presence. Sometime people take a perverse pleasure in seeing someone struggle, or indeed fail, others are simply unaware of the extreme difficulty in breaking an addictive habit. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure, put your own needs first.

6. Drink lots of fluids to help the flushing out process, especially water (3 to 4 pints daily) and de-tox tea. Try to avoid tea and coffee as much as possible, especially if you are used to having a cigarette with them. Don’t set yourself up to feel deprived.

7. Don’t make lots of promises. Many of us have families or friends who desperately want us to give up smoking. Remember that you are withdrawing from an addictive drug. You haven’t continued to smoke because you don’t care about your family or friends, but because you are addicted. Nicotine addiction is very powerful. Don’t set yourself up to fail by making any promises, just say that you are going to do your best.

8. Be realistic with yourself, don’t underestimate that what you are doing is a really big thing. Consider yourself to be recovering as if from an illness. Don’t take on any other major projects at this time, or try to deal with other major life issues.

9. Remember, there is no doubt that some times in your life it is harder to stop smoking than at other times. If you are in the process of trauma, a bereavement, divorce etc, of course it will be more difficult. BUT remember that you don’t have any problems that a cigarette will make better, if you wait until it is the “right time” that will never happen. So really the only time you have is NOW.

10. Reward yourself frequently for your success in quitting smoking. Rewards can be a daily “pat on the back”, tell yourself out loud that you are doing well. Make time to have a relaxing bath, use some of the money you are saving on cigarettes to treat yourself, have a massage, or new clothes. Treat yourself to something that makes you feel good so that you are getting a positive pay back from your efforts to quit.

Learn how to handle urges to smoke. Be aware of things that may cause you to want to smoke. For example:

Being around other smokers.

Being under time pressure.

Getting into an argument.

Feeling sad or frustrated.

Being bored.

Drinking alcohol.

Avoid difficult situations while you are trying to quit. Try to lower your stress levels.  Take time to do things you enjoy. Exercise, such as walking, swimming or cycling can also help.  Write down events, feelings, or activities that make you want a cigarette.

The key to handling an urge is to distract yourself from thoughts of smoking:

Talk to someone

Get busy with a task

Read a book

Write down at least three things that will work for you:

Change your environment:

Get rid of cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and place of work.  Get rid of the smell of cigarettes in your car and home.  Have your carpets shampooed, clean all of your clothes.

Review your past attempts to quit:

Think about what worked for you, and what did not.  If you started to smoke again think about what happened and why you started again.  How can you avoid the same thing happening this time?

What will be the most difficult situations for you after you quit?

How do you plan to handle them?

Facts about smoking, quitting and gaining weight

Weight gain varies from person to person.  The average person gains less than 10lb.

The weight gained is a minor health risk compared to the risks of smoking.

Women tend to gain slightly more weight than men.

Exercising, eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grain cereals and pasta, avoiding a lot of fats and getting enough sleep can help.

How to avoid relapse

Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting.  Don’t be discouraged if you start smoking again.  Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit.  Explore different ways to break habits. You may have to deal with some of the following triggers that may cause relapse.

Alcohol ~ consider limiting or stopping alcohol use while you are quitting smoking.

Other smokers at home ~ try to get your partner or family members to quit with you. Work out a plan to cope with others who smoke, and avoid being around them.

Severe withdrawal symptoms ~ your body will go through many changes when you quit smoking.  You may have a dry mouth, cough or scratchy throat and feel on edge.  If you need support, continue with acupuncture treatment until you feel that the symptoms are clear.

Thoughts ~ get your mind off cigarettes.  Exercise and do things you enjoy.

Keep a list ~ keep a list of the “slips” and near slips, what caused them and what you can learn from them.

Enhance your life!

Once you’ve given up smoking and proved that you do have the willpower and internal strength to do it, consider how else you might improve your life.  Use the money you are saving positively to create a healthier, happier you.  Perhaps you could join a gym and work on increasing your fitness now that you are free of cigarettes.

Beating nicotine addiction proves that you have far more inner strength than you realised you had.  What else is there in your life that you thought you couldn’t do?  Perhaps now is the time to re-assess your own strengths and abilities and to venture forward.

Diet and Supplements

Some supplements will be useful for you to take, at least for a while.

Evening Primrose Oil can alleviate withdrawal symptoms by up to 50%.

Vitamin B complex will help the nervous system.

Vitamin C 1000mg daily, will help the body to repair.

Eat a diet that is high in vegetables; fruit; oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines; white meat; wholemeal bread and pasta. Drink 3 to 4 pints of water daily.

Avoid red meat; processed food; white flour; dairy produce; tea; coffee; alcohol; cola; cakes and biscuits.

Keeping your diet light and full of whole foods will help your body in the detoxification and recovery process.

Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)


Arsen Alb

Carbo Veg



Recommended further reading:

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