Cravings Are Not Withdrawal Symptoms

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.

8 thoughts on “Cravings Are Not Withdrawal Symptoms”

  1. Nice comment, Chris

    This one looks like more bunkum

    ‘In previously published reports, less than five percent of smokers who tried to quit on their own without any aids were not smoking one year later. Long-term quit rates for smokers who relied on pharmacological intervention hover under 25 percent. ‘

    ‘Four times more likely to quit with the NHS’ again???

  2. “Hover under”? HA! That’s a good one! Hover WAY under, at 6% in fact, as we know from several independent reports and the government’s own Borland report. What a bunch of fraudsters!

    Of course that’s an American story but it’s the same here in the U.K. because this is now a well-organised global nicotine scam. Taxpayers’ money, folks. This is a national scandal: as we all know here in the U.K., in that now-famous phrase, “There’s no money left.” This kind of corruption is robbing other areas of the NHS vital cash that could actually be doing some good. Scrap the NHS Stop Smoking Services, they have proved to be a collossal waste of money which can only be defended by telling blatant lies about it.

    Where are the bloody newspapers when the public really needs them to reveal the truth and put a stop to this scandal? Oh yeah – they’re alerting us all to the vital news that Cheryl Cole has malaria! OMG!

  3. As I’ve been saying for the last two and a half years, The Truth Will Out. VERY unusual for it to come from that direction though!

    What do they know that we don’t know, Bel? If they’re getting ready to ditch NRT they must have something else lined up to replace it – an anti-smoking vaccine, you reckon? Or better still: a vaccine you give babies to prevent them from starting to smoke in their teens? Ha ha ha ha, then it would be a couple of decades before anyone found out it was bullshit!

    Except that we know that already.

    Now look at this about Champix (Chantix) – scroll down to the “Controversy” bit. Bear in mind that these are ONLY the bad reactions that have been officially reported, which is just the tip of the iceberg. (Link)

  4. Don’t know Chris, they may just rebrand their existing products as harm reduction products and recommend them as nicotine substitutes instead of cessation treatment.

    As usual the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. They are still branding NRT as a cessation treatment at this conference (about five weeks ago in Glasgow), here is one of the presentations:

    and all the others are here:

  5. Chris,

    I simply cannot agree with the above suggestion that smokers do not often smoke first thing after they wake in the morning. I am an ex-smoker and it was the absolute first thing I would do upon waking – go outside (even in the freezing cold) and light up. Also, I tended to smoke a number of cigarettes very quickly early in the morning, say 3 in the first hour or so of the day to overcome the withdrawals experienced during the night.

    Other heavy smokers I knew used to even wake up in the night to feed, yes, their addicition. Wake up, have a cigarette at 3am and go back to bed. So addicted they couldn’t have uninterupted sleep.

    I really wonder how accurate your sources are.

  6. Ah- the thing is, Xsmoka, I wasn’t talking about the minority of smokers who do things like that, but the vast majority who do not. I did point out in the 400 page book I wrote on this subject that if you are a heavy smoker, or one of those people who has got into the habit of waking up regularly and smoking in the night, of course it is very easy to believe that tobacco smoking is a drug addiction.

    So you do.

    It must be a bit hard for you (and your fellow very heavy smokers) to understand that the vast majority of smokers usually have their first cigarette of the day ten minutes, fifteen minutes or even an hour after getting up, but they do. And what I am pointing out to everybody is that during that period of time they feel perfectly normal, as any ordinary (not ultra heavy) smokers will readily admit. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s just the habit they have personally got into.

    So you see, you’re only thinking about yourself, and the few people you know who also smoke a lot.

    My sources? I’ve been helping individual smokers quit smoking with hypnotherapy six days a week for the last ten years. That’s thousands of people, with every kind of habit from social smokers to people on eighty a day. I know what I’m talking about, and of course I was a smoker myself from age 12 until I was 36. I’ve also had numerous drug habits and addictions from age fourteen to my late twenties and I know the differences between compulsive habits and real addictions, of which there are only a few. (True physical addictions, I mean. Tobacco is not one of them.)

    The article here is not my definitive argument, only a fragment of it. I challenge anyone to read the whole book “Nicotine: The Drug That Never Was” and then tell me they still believe in nicotine addiction.

    But if you prefer to stick with what you believe already, of course you will never read the book – but that’s okay, you can believe what you like!

  7. I believe you have a good point about the meeting the Queen moment is NOT a smoking opportunity and most people can live through it, though it is not as simple as that.

    This is often a typical pavlov’s dogs type of response for some eg. upon waking they do get a strong craving but only because they got into a habit of smoking upon waking. When giving up smoking, it is usually a combination of giving up many types of “habits”, that is why it is so hard. Maybe the habit of holding something in your hand, the habit of having something to turn to in times of stress, the habit that triggers the happy memories associated with times that you smoked, the habit of associating a hero with smoking, AND addiction to nicotine and other ingredients in cigarettes? The beauty of hypnotherapy is that a hypnotherapist can get to the “habits”, associations or triggers to this addiction and replace it with more healthful responses. The test of the really good hypnotherapist is to be able to address the triggers and deeper issues to ensure that they are not just getting rid of one habit to replace it with another.

    When it became illegal to participate in public smoking indoors in the UK maybe some people found it so much easier to quit or cut down because a lot of people lost the association of social interaction with smoking. I know of several people who found it so.

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