Why is Smoking Addictive?

Dr. Milan Khara, MBChB, CCFP, ABAM, discusses why smoking is addictive.

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Dr. Milan Khara, MBChB, CCFP, ABAM, discusses why smoking is addictive.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Milan Khara, MBChB, CCFP, ABAM
Video Title: Why is Smoking Addictive?
Duration: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

When we talk about smoking as an addiction, really what we are referring to is the changes that occur in the pleasure centers of the brain.  

We know that when people deliver nicotine from the cigarette to their brain, very quickly we see a change in receptive types and receptive numbers. And, that’s why we could think of this as a true addictive disorder.

We also know that in those individuals that have become addicted, when they don’t smoke, they go into a very predictable withdrawal syndrome. For example, irritability, anxiety, low mood, changes in appetite, etc, etc. So, tobacco withdrawal for many of those who smoke can be reasonably unpleasant and in fact is one of the main obstacles to success in quitting smoking.

We know that withdrawal symptoms actually start within a couple of hours of the last cigarette.  Those symptoms tend to peak at around two or three days, but the vast majority of withdrawal is done within two to four weeks, though many will say that the craving can persist intermittently actually for years. 

But, it is the medications that we use that can help to eliminate some of those symptoms of withdrawal and can help to navigate somebody through those first couple of weeks when they are most vulnerable to relapse.

Those who quit smoking will sometimes report craving intermittently for a really prolong period, maybe even for years. And one of the keys is to making changes in the lifestyle that go along with becoming smoke-free, so removing the trigger situations, incorporating more exercise, eating more healthily. This kind of approach will protect the ex-smoker from relapse.

So for those who are struggling with smoking cessation there are a number of resources available for them. Reaching out to a healthcare professional, whether that’s a physician, or a pharmacist or again incorporating support from family members or others who are attempting to quit smoking could be a really effective way to improve the likelihood of success.        

Presenter: Dr. Milan Khara, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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