by Chris Holmes
** Update 16/07.10: There is a link in the third comment at the end of this article to the website of Action on Smoking and Health (A.S.H.) which refers to a study on cravings that confirms exactly what I’m talking about here. God knows I never expected ASH to confirm or agree with anything I say, because they have staunchly defended and promoted Nicotine Replacement products until now, but maybe everyone involved in that is getting ready to admit that NRT is a complete waste of money because it’s based on a myth, just as I’ve been saying all along. Now watch them immediately start promoting some other pharmaceutical instead, instead of admitting openly how WRONG they were all this time about hypnotherapy, the Allen Carr approach, acupuncture… no, it’s chemicals, chemicals chemicals all the way!
Anyway enjoy the article!
Cravings Are Not Withdrawal Symptoms
Whether you are a smoker or not, you know what a craving is because we all get lots of cravings, they are not all about tobacco. In hypnotherapy we shut down cravings for all sorts of things routinely: smoking is just one example of that. If anyone reading this doesn’t believe that it is simply because they haven’t experienced it themselves, but it’s an everyday occurence for hypnotherapists – I’ve been doing this for the last ten years. Easily demonstrated too.
For several decades now, smokers have had it drilled into them that smoking is “nicotine addiction, nicotine addiction, nicotine addiction”. Yet for most of the time people have been smoking tobacco in Europe it has simply been regarded as a filthy habit. Odd references to “addiction” have occured down the ages but that is partly due to the unclear meaning of the term, which has often been confused with Compulsive Habit anyway. But I can easily explain why smokers’ cravings cannot possibly be withdrawal symptoms and are not related to nicotine levels in the blood anyway.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I know from my own experience as a smoker in the past that trying to quit smoking with willpower alone – or with nicotine replacement products, Zyban or Champix – CAN be a real struggle, or even seem impossible. According to the U.K. Government’s own commissioned studies into the long-term outcomes of those methods (which the National Health Service recommend) the chances are very much that your success – if any – will be temporary. What smokers don’t realise is, that is NOT because it is really hard to stop smoking, it is because those methods are all based on a myth: “addiction” to nicotine.
If cravings were withdrawal symptoms you would experience them at their worst when the nicotine level was lowest, which would be first thing in the morning if you are a typical smoker. No nicotine has been taken into the body for hours, so those “nicotine receptors” should be “going crazy” the moment you’re awake. Yet most smokers do not even keep tobacco by the bed. So there is a gap – an elapse of time – between the moment they open their eyes, and the moment when they first light up a cigarette.
Of course, there are a few smokers who light up before they get out of bed but I think everyone is aware that this is not the norm. The majority of habitual smokers will normally get up, go to the bathroom, maybe have a shower, go downstairs, put the kettle on, feed the cat… all the time feeling perfectly normal. They are not climbing the walls desperate for nicotine. But why not? They haven’t had any nicotine for hours! IF THE URGE TO SMOKE WAS REALLY A WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOM, THAT WOULD BE THEIR WORST MOMENT.
Also, many smokers feel an urge to pick up a cigarette when they have just put one out, such as when drinking, socialising or if bored. That urge is compelling, but it cannot be withdrawal because the nicotine level in the blood is still high from the previous cigarette. A “withdrawal symptom” is an experience caused by nicotine withdrawing from the system, which only happens later. Another clear indicator is the fact that the urge to smoke will vanish in particular circumstances regardless of falling nicotine levels: many smokers never smoke outside or in the street, so if they go out shopping they don’t want one. Gardening, playing sports… hours may go by, nicotine levels fall away – no symptoms, no “withdrawal”. This is because cravings are not linked to nicotine levels at all. They are compulsive urges prompting the usual habitual behaviour, but ONLY if it is a) possible, b) appropriate and c) convenient.
So if you get on a plane – as long as you’re okay with flying and don’t seriously object to the smoking restriction – you will find that nicotine levels can fall and keep on falling, and hey presto! No pesky withdrawal symptoms! Likewise if you board a bus, ride on a train, walk into Sainsburys or a cathedral, step into an operating theatre or meet the Queen… the brain knows this is NOT A SMOKING OPPORTUNITY so it doesn’t send the signals until you LEAVE that situation and a smoking opportunity presents itself.
Now, I need hardly point out that the social restrictions I’ve just described require INTELLIGENCE, SOCIAL KNOWLEDGE AND DISCERNMENT to distinguish between, and I doubt if any scientist is going to suggest that the nicotine receptors in the brain possess such complex abilities such as would be required to appreciate the shifting rules and mores of modern society. No, they were simply supposed to “go crazy” due to the falling level of nicotine specifically – NOT the fact that you’re chatting to the Queen, halfway to Cyprus or admiring a beautiful stained-glass window.
Real drug addictions are totally different. If a heroin addict gets on a plane and the level of heroin in the blood falls low THEN THEY ARE ILL, it doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing. They couldn’t make out like they were fine even if they were talking to HRH.
Interested? Want to know more about what’s really going on with cravings? Click on the Read The Book section of the site, and when the Contents page appears, read a bit more. If you want to read all of it, click on Buy The Book. £16.95 for the paperback, or just £5 for the full download version. If you don’t like buying on-line, contact me directly for the other options.
I shut down smoking habits in a single session routinely. You can’t do that with a heroin addiction. I’ve tried. If you smoke tobacco you are NOT a drug addict, and that’s why the nicotine-based approaches rarely work except in the short-term. And that’s down to willpower mainly. The real solution is hypnotherapy, and there will come a time when that is simply common knowledge and everyone will understand that all this endless hype about “nicotine addiction” was just a simple mistake which turned into a gigantic moneyspinner for the drug companies at the taxpayers’ expense.