Stress and Smoking
An abundance of medical research indicates a correlation between high personal stress and the increased incidence of mental and physical health issues. Some of the ways in which we try to alleviate stress, like smoking, can have serious long-term health consequences which ironically generate more stress.
Nicotine is a thousand times more potent than alcohol and five to ten times more potent than cocaine. Most smokers use tobacco regularly because they are addicted to nicotine. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, even in the face of negative health consequences. Tobacco smoke delivers as least 60 known cancer causing chemicals, tiny amounts of poison including arsenic, and more than 4,000 other substances to the body.
- Over $75 billion of the total U.S. healthcare costs each year is attributed directly to smoking. In addition, the cost of lost productivity due to smoking is estimated at $82 billion per year.
- An estimated 20.9% of all adults (45.1 million) smoke cigarettes in the United States. The incidence of smoking in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, and other mental illnesses are twofold to fourfold higher than the general population. Smoking incidence among people with schizophrenia is as high as 90%.
- Recent research suggests that even intermittent smoking can result in the development of tobacco addiction in some teens.
Nicotine activates reward pathways – the brain circuitry that regulates feelings of pleasure. Research shows that nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is involved in addictions to other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Nicotine reaches the brain within eight seconds after someone inhales tobacco smoke.
- Nicotine can be stimulating or relaxing, depending on a person’s mood and dosage. The effects include increases in blood pressure and heart rate, faster respiration, constriction of arteries, sudden release of glucose, and stimulation of the central nervous system. Nicotine suppresses insulin output from the pancreas and stimulates the adrenal glands.
- Most cigarettes in the U.S. market today contain 10 milligrams or more of nicotine. The average smoker takes in 1 to 2 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette when inhaling.
- Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include: anxiety, depression, headaches, fatigue, increased appetite, constipation, slower heart rate, trouble sleeping, sweating, pain in limbs, coughing/dry throat, mouth ulcers, irritability, poor concentration, hostility, and dizziness.
- Post cessation weight gain is about 5-10 pounds.
- Symptoms peak within the first few days of smoking cessation and may subside within a few weeks. For some, symptoms may persist for months. Each year, nearly 35 million people make an effort to quit smoking. Only about 6% of those who try to quit are successful for more than a month.
- Cigarette smoking is America’s leading preventable killer.
Cigarette smoking accounts for approximately one of every five deaths each year. More deaths are caused by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
- Smoking causes cancers of the bladder, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, cervix, kidney, pancreas, and stomach. Also, it has many adverse reproductive and early childhood effects including an increased risk for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and SIDS. Postmenopausal women who smoke have lower bone density.
- Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease. Also, it doubles a person’s risk for stroke.