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 Smoking, Drinking & Addiction

October 2011
Puffing Your Life Away?
Dr. SrinivasChakravarthy G
 
Smoking tobacco causes cancer. Period. One cigarette has more than 4000 chemicals in it, most of which are also found in battery acid, sewers, toilet cleaners, car exhaust and so forth. The irony of it is that people are actually addicted to only one of them - Nicotine. They getthe others for free. Almost like a Super Dhamaka Sale.

Sixty-nine of these chemicals cause cancer of the lungs, head, neck, gut and urinary bladder. Other chemicals cause heart attacks, stroke and blocked arteries. If one has smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years, the lung cancer risk is increased 10 times and about 600 days are decreased from that person's life span.

Recent evidence was published in the August edition of the international journal Cancer this year. This study suggests that those who have to smoke within 60 minutes of waking up are at far greater risk of cancer than those who start to smoke later in the day. The reasons for this are not clearly known, but may indicate a greater dependence on nicotine in early morning smokers or an interaction with 'stress' hormones whose levels usually surge up in the morning. This in turn, may depend upon a person's individual genetic or personal factors. This news is interesting because it could allow doctors to device specific regimens to help early morning smokers quit.

So what does one do when one gets caught in the tobacco trap? The most important thing is the desire to quit. Where there is a will, there certainly is a way.

What seems to work best is a comprehensive program consisting of ongoing counseling by a trained physician, nicotine replacement (as a patch, chewing gum, etc.) where appropriate and certain special medicines (varenicline, bupropion) are to be taken under strict professional supervision. There are, however, a few simple effective things that a person can do himself - called the '5 Ds':
  • Delay the urge to smoke… then it will pass.
     
  • Drink water, chew gum or have a healthy snack to fight cravings
     
  • Do something else to distract yourself…take a walk, call a friend, keep your hands busy by doing chores or squeezing a rubber ball.
     
  • Deep breaths will relax you. Close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths or meditate.
     
  • Discuss your thoughts and feelings with someone close to you.
 Good luck with kicking that butt!


    
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