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Why Just One Cigarette Can Get You Hooked

August 26, 2008 | 64,438 views

cigarette, smokingA Canadian study has suggested that it may take only one cigarette for some people to get addicted to nicotine, because of how their brains are wired.

By manipulating receptors in the brains of rats, researchers were able to control whether the first exposure to nicotine was enjoyable or repulsive. They experimented on two types of receptors for dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain's reward circuitry.

By blocking the receptors, the researchers were able to switch how nicotine was processed -- from repulsive to rewarding or positive. The natural variations that occur between people may therefore explain why some are more likely to become addicted to nicotine.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Upon trying a cigarette, most people either love it or hate it, and this study sheds some light on why this might be. Assuming you are a smoker who feels rewarded when you have a cigarette, this paves the way to relying on smoking anytime you need an emotional pick-me-up (which for most of us is quite often).

Ideally, the solution would be to never try a cigarette in the first place. But hundreds of millions of people worldwide are already past this point. In the U.S. alone nearly 24 percent of men, and 18 percent of women, are smokers, according to the American Heart Association.

Among them, it’s estimated that 70 percent would like to quit, a wise decision considering all of the health risks involved. Conventional medicine continues to call smoking the “leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that smoking causes one out of every five U.S. deaths every year.

I used to believe this too.

When I first finished my residency program and started my medical practice I was fully focused on helping people stop smoking. But as years went by I realized that although smoking is obviously not healthy, it is not the cause of most preventable illness.

Consuming sugar and not resolving emotional traumas get that honor.

Let me make myself clear, I do not advocate smoking and I do suggest quitting to be optimally healthy. But if you are currently facing numerous health challenges, quitting smoking should not be at the top of your list.

Before You Quit Smoking … Do THIS

Get healthy.

There are two major reasons for this. One, if you attempt to quit smoking while you’re still eating an unhealthy diet, you will likely be tempted to replace the cigarettes with some other “reward.” And the reward often ends up being junk food.

As I’m fond of saying, I believe one French fry is worse for you than one cigarette, so swapping your pack a day for an extra value meal a day is NOT a good swap.

This is not just my opinion; it’s based on scientific fact.

A study conducted back in 2001 actually found that obesity was associated with higher rates of chronic medical problems and a poorer quality of life than smoking. So it’s absolutely essential that you are devoted to eating healthy before you give up smoking. Otherwise you may simply trade smoking for overeating, or eating too much sugar and fast food, leading to obesity and all of its related problems.

At the same time, many people become depressed when they quit smoking, and this makes it very difficult to make major dietary changes and improvements.

The second reason for getting healthy before you quit smoking is that your new healthy lifestyle will probably push you to naturally quit.

There’s something about eating healthy and exercising that synergistically help to resolve the underlying anxiety that many people choose to resolve with smoking. And I have found that if a person is eating the right foods and exercising it is very unusual for them to remain a smoker.

Your Goal is to Become Optimally Healthy

Your goal should not simply be to quit smoking. Being optimally healthy requires much more than that. My entire program to get healthy is described in detail in Take Control of Your Health, but here are some primary tips to get you started:

1. Read through my nutrition plan to get started eating right.

2. Make friends with exercise. It is your ally to fighting disease, and to quitting smoking.

3. Find a healthy emotional outlet. Many people use exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques for this, and these are all great, but I especially love the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT helps to clear out emotional blockages from your system (some of which you might not even realize are there), thus restoring your mind and body's balance.

Once you are regularly doing these three things, then you can begin to think about quitting smoking.

The best method to do so?

Cold turkey.

Studies have shown that simply cutting back on how much you smoke does nothing to lower your cancer risk. Even if you cut back on the number of cigarettes, research suggests that you will simply inhale more deeply when you do smoke, thus subconsciously feeding your addiction.

So once you decide to quit, complete abstinence is required.

I highly suggest you use EFT frequently during this process, as it’s very effective at helping people to overcome addictions. Meanwhile, many people are addicted not only to the nicotine but also to the physical act of smoking. So make sure that anytime you normally would have a cigarette you are busy doing something else (preferably something you enjoy).

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