Sometimes it’s hard to decipher between addictions and habits. In fact, is there really a difference at all? My mother used to tell me that it takes 21 days to turn something into a habit. When she said that, she meant an activity like brushing your teeth, reading a book, going for a run. What she didn’t mean was smoking a cigarette, having a joint or doing cocaine. Although, perhaps it would also take about 21 days to make those into habits too. But surely they’re addictions, no?
If habits are addictions and addictions are habits, then does that mean that brushing your teeth – something that we hopefully all do day and night – is an addiction? We all know that horrible, grim feeling you get when you’ve forgotten to brush your teeth. Is that not just another example of a withdrawal? Well, let’s find out.
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What is an Addiction?
Before we can truly understand whether cleaning your teeth counts as an addiction, first we need to acknowledge what an addiction is. And, also, how it differs from a habit – such as cleaning your teeth, or reading a book. When people use the word addiction, certain images do naturally pop into one’s head – probably inspired by pop culture. For example, you might think about several scenes from Trainspotting, with sweaty, panting men, desperately wanting the next hit of heroin. But the truth is that addiction has many realities, and some aren’t always as obvious and dramatic as the ones in films. Healthline defines addiction as this:
“An addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory. It’s about the way your body craves a substance or behavior”
The quote continues, but first let’s analyse this much of it. There are many substances and actions that lead to reward, which are driven by motivation and memory. It is this, as the quote says, that makes something an addiction. The desire for social media feeds off these attributes. The dopamine-triggering feeling of getting a like, or hearing that notification sound, all this is experienced as a reward. It becomes like Pavlov’s dog experiment – the sound of the notification is directly linked to the reward of feeling connected with another person, which triggers a dopamine kick. This is the same with many drugs. You do a line of cocaine or a hit of heroin and you instantly feel amazing, and when it goes away you desire that feeling again. The quote from Healthline goes on to say:
“…It causes a compulsive or obsessive pursuit of “reward” and lack of concern over consequences.”
It’s this part of the definition that slightly shifts away from cleaning teeth looking also like an addiction. There is evidence that many addictions and that pursuit of reward can leave people worse off. If it’s a gambling addiction people will usually end up with less money than they started or, if they end up winning, they’ll be utterly obsessed with that feeling of success until they eventually lose anyway. If it’s a substance addiction – like alcohol, cocaine or nicotine – people will usually be left erratic and depressed when they’re in a situation without these substances. They become only happy and functional with these substances and deeply troubled without them. In other words, these addictions revolve around short term gain, but long term failure. Mill’s Utilitarian philosophy highlights the difference between higher and lower pleasures in life.
“Higher pleasures are pleasures caused by the exercise of our higher faculties, whereas lower pleasures are pleasures caused by the exercise of our lower capacities.”
In other words, higher pleasures make us feel wholesome and good for a long period of time. Going for a run, speaking with friends, travelling – would all be considered higher pleasures. They feed the soul. Whereas lower pleasures may make you feel amazing for a short amount of time, but will inevitably lead to a fall. This includes certain drugs and bad habits. Cleaning your teeth is something that makes you feel cleaner, healthier and – long term – will extend the hygiene of your teeth and gums. Therefore, it feels like cleaning your teeth, like maintaining hygiene all over the body, is a necessary habit. It would sit more comfortably in the higher pleasure, than the lower pleasure. But do you even really get pleasure from cleaning your teeth anyway? The feeling of cleanliness, in a sense, is a pleasure.
What is a Habit?
The culture around the word habit is far less extreme than addiction. Habits include minor things, such as: buying the same loaf of bread, taking the same route home, biting your nails, or running every day. There are, of course, bad habits and good habits. Other examples of bad habits may include: being disorganised, cracking joints, driving too fast or being too hard on yourself. Whilst bad habits and addictions can seem similar, there is a major difference between the two. The Cambridge definition of habit is described as such:
“something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it”
Habits can be so small and unnoticeable that you don’t even realise you’re doing it. Habits are usually slowly formed through repetition and consistency. Each of us has hundreds of habits that we all do, some more conscious than others. Here’s how they’re created:
“habits form when new behaviors become automatic and are enacted with minimum conscious awareness. That’s because “the behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways.”
In order to break a habit, someone will need to consciously intervene in the cycle of cue, routine and reward. You feel bored so you check your phone, you scroll, you find something mildly interesting on social media. Habits like these are ingrained into us, but you’re able to break them by being mindful and aware of them. Perhaps instead, next time you feel bored, you decide to pick up a book and read a chapter instead of checking your phone. Eventually, over time, this will be a new habit that you’ve created. Cleaning your teeth is a habit that lots of parents try to get ingrained into children early, despite how difficult and tiresome it can seem at first.
Most people clean their teeth once in the morning, and once in the evening – it’s essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Whilst cleaning your teeth may seem easy and simple now, it wasn’t always as easy when you were younger. It’s this struggle at the beginning of the habit that might differentiate it from an addiction. Addictions usually feel good, and that’s where the addiction begins. Instead, cleaning teeth – like reading a book when you’re bored – is an active habit that is intentionally ingrained to maintain health. It is not something that brings a great deal of happiness or euphoria. Of course if you forget to brush your teeth you might feel slightly grim, which could be considered a sort of withdrawal, but really this is due to a lack of cleanliness rather than a lack of pleasure.
What’s the Difference?
Habits and addictions are scientifically very similar, but ultimately they are different. Addictions can destroy people’s lives and cause severe harm, whereas habits are far less extreme. Plus, with the extent of withdrawal symptoms, stopping an addiction is often far harder than ending an addiction. It can take a lot more time, and can often require medical and therapeutic help. You might need a long-term plan and family support to end an addiction, whereas a mindful mind is usually enough to end a habit. However, as Journey Pure River writes:
“There is an ongoing debate among experts about whether the abuse of drinking and drugs represents the development of troublesome habitual behavior or addiction. As a human being, you are naturally drawn to habitual patterns because repetition creates familiarity and comfort. Positive habits can even become tools of survival. Sometimes, however, habitual behaviors take a dark turn and develop into addictions.”
So, in a way, habits can be the beginning of addictions. As the body desperately tries to find familiarities wherever it can, sometimes it can find something that isn’t the best habit to have. This habit, if it isn’t observed, can become an addiction. Smoking cigarettes, for example, can begin as something social and then easily become a necessity. However, in the case of teeth brushing, it is different. Whilst teeth brushing may become a habit, there is nothing intrinsically addictive about it or life-threatening about it, and therefore this habit does not become a dangerous addiction.
So, there you have it, cleaning your teeth probably should not be considered an addiction. However, there’s definitely a fine line between habit and addiction. And sometimes that line can be finer than usual.
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When Your Doctor Is Your Dealer: Why Opioid Measures Won’t Work
Drug issues are constant in society, whether current or historically, but for the most part, the truly bad cases have only accounted for a small percentage of a population. The past decades have introduced a new phenomenon in the issue of drug use, whereby the doctor is the dealer, leading to a whole new level of confusion and difficulty in getting rid of this problem.
When your doctor is your dealer, how do you get off drugs? This is the main issue with today’s opioid crisis. This publication reports on stories in the burgeoning cannabis and psychedelic industries. Stay current by signing up for the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get yourself some good deals on tons of cannabis products, as well as cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. There are tons of options out there, and we only promote consumers buy products they’re happy with.
The opioid issue
The overdose issue has skyrocketed both in the US, and abroad, and the main contributing factor for these increases is the use of synthetic opioids. Though opiates have been around for awhile (think Tylenol 3), the issue of synthetic opioids is much newer. To clarify, an opiate is a naturally derived compound of the opium plant. An opioid is a synthetically made compound which is either based on opiates, but can’t be found in nature, or a synthetically made version of a naturally occurring compound.
In terms of how deadly they’ve proven to be, the latest preliminary number released by the CDC for 2021 for overdose deaths in America, is 107,622. These are not all opioid overdoses, but account for all drug overdose deaths. This rate is 15% increased from the 93,000 of 2020, which was a 30% increase from 73,000 deaths in 2019.
We don’t know how many of 2021’s deaths are opioid related, but we do know that opioid overdoses account for the grand majority, and we know this by looking at the numbers for other years. Of the 93,000 that died in 2020, over 68,000 were opioid deaths. When looking at 2019 numbers, of the 73,000 overdose deaths, less than 15,000 were heroin, and 48,000 were from synthetic opioids.
Where did this come from?
Opioids came into the spotlight in 1996 when the pharmaceutical company Purdue released oxycontin, the first time release opioid medication, which kicked off tons of issues with patients getting addicted. Issues revolve around the strength of the medication, as well as lies about how long it lasts, which led patients to believe initially that they didn’t need to take as much as what they actually needed in the end.
These safety issues were buried for years, and prescriptions for opioid medications continued to grow. In 2006 8.4 billion opioid pills made it to market, and in 2012, the number was up to 12.6 billion. Consider what it might be now that 10 more years passed. Judging from the growing overdoses, it doesn’t imply the number went down. Between 2006-2012, over 76 billion opioid pills were sold, and three companies manufactured 88% of these: SpecGx, Actavis Pharma, and Par Pharmaceutical. The creator of this epidemic, Purdue, was the fourth largest producer.
These numbers are already old, and that’s because this information is repeatedly buried by both pharma companies and the US government. The US government, for its part, not only continues to allow these medications, but has gone as far as proposing to reduce prescribing guidelines for doctors, making them easier to get. The US government is the sole entity responsible for approving medications, regulating their use, and taking them off the market. So as this issue continues, there is only one entity responsible for its progression.
The problem here is that this isn’t a black market issue, this is a legal medical issue. In this case its not about back-alley deals, it’s about the doctor as the dealer. It was reported that for 2017, 191 million prescriptions for opioids were written in that year, and 45% were written by primary care physician, and not specialists. Primary care physicians are not supposed to write these prescriptions, and perhaps the current situation helps explain why. This massive number of prescriptions amounts to 58.7 per every 100 people.
The sad thing is though big pharmaceutical companies are now paying out billions in lawsuits because of the damage done by these medications, and the lies surrounding them, the doctors writing the prescriptions are not being held liable. Think of how many of those deaths came from patients taking what they were prescribed to take. It’s great that pharma companies must pay out for their crimes, but why aren’t the doctors? If their medical school training is not enough for them to conceptually understand the issue of prescribing addictive medication in large amounts, perhaps we need more stringent requirements for our medical professionals.
In 2001, Portugal shocked the world by creating policy to decriminalize all kinds of drugs. The whole point of the measure wasn’t to promote drug use in the country, but to cut back on the rising HIV cases that were spreading because of IV drug use. It was estimated that half of new yearly AIDS cases came from sharing needles.
The law didn’t legalize drug use or possession, but it did change it from a criminal offense with jail time, to an administrative offense, so long as the user is only caught with a 10-day supply. The main idea is to identify people who require more help, and to get them the help they need. From 2001-2015, Portugal saw a 50% decrease in drug convictions for drug traffickers.
Portugal has seen mainly positive benefits from this move, including a reduction in convictions, a drug-related death rate below the EU average since 2001, and also drug use rates lower than the EU average. This isn’t to say there aren’t issues and ambiguities involved, but it certainly didn’t become a nightmare situation, and does seem to have done some good.
In terms of deaths, since that’s what we’re focused on here, Portugal saw a major drop in overdose deaths for the first several years after the law was enacted. Though they went up again slightly for a few years following, by 2011, deaths were once again down, with a total of only 11 overdose deaths in 2011. The rate does fluctuate, but has never gone as high as 2001 when there were 76 recorded overdose deaths. These numbers, of course, are significantly smaller than the numbers seen in the US.
The doctor is the dealer
The thing is, Portugal was fighting an illicit drug issue. It wasn’t trying to lessen drug use, while having its doctors simultaneously providing them. It was just trying to reduce illicit drugs. The problem with nearly every measure taken in the US (and Canada), from safe use sites, to the decriminalization of hard drugs, which Canada’s British Columbia is about to do, is that these measures are being done while doctors are still prescribing the medications. And as long as the doctor is the dealer, there isn’t a reason for drug use to go down.
In order for that to happen, regulation must surround the ability to get prescriptions, as well as the use of alternate treatments like ketamine. The US was perfectly happy to get rid of Quaaludes, despite claiming the whole country was addicted to them, which would have been horrifying it that was true (it wasn’t). In order to do this, the US went around rooting out producers in the entire world. So why are opioids still around if the US is so willing to get rid of drugs which it claims are bad for its people, but which show no comparable death count?
And why isn’t ketamine in the conversation at all. This non-death-toll dissociative hallucinogen has been associated with acute pain control since the 1960’s, and is the subject of specific studies which show its ability to replace opioids for pain management. Add on that ketamine helps with the circular thinking behaviors of addiction, and one could say its criminal that governments are ignoring it in favor of promoting big pharma and the further proliferation of opioids.
This idea that the doctor is the dealer is a strange one in today’s world of drug addiction, and its not a problem we’ve encountered before. In all other ‘drug wars’, the culprit was always a black market enterprise. But the US (and other countries) isn’t waging wars on doctors and pharmaceutical companies. It’s instead attempting to make opioids easier to get, allowing their continued sale, and practically ignoring all the doctors who function as nothing more than drug pushers.
If the US government likes to prosecute drug dealers, then shouldn’t every doctor that carelessly wrote opioid prescriptions also get prosecuted? We prosecute drunk drivers if they hurt someone else, even if they had no intention to do so. Yet every doctor writing unnecessary prescriptions that lead to death, are just as guilty as any drunk guy who gets behind the wheel and kills another person.
If anyone expects the current tactics now being employed to fight the opioid epidemic to help, then they’re not paying attention. As long as the doctor is the dealer, and the prescriptions keep coming, this problem will never go away, and will only continue to grow.
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Record High Opioid Deaths For a Record Low in America
We’ve been talking about it for a while. About the addictions, and the misuse, and the overdoses, and the death. We’ve been talking about it for years now, and the only thing to happen, is for numbers to go up. A recent report points to record high opioid deaths in the US, and a record low in dealing with them.
Opioid deaths are on the rise, fueling the enormous drug overdose rate in America. What will be done to end this epidemic, and where does ketamine fit in? We report on the growing cannabis and psychedelics industries. You can keep up with everything by subscribing to The Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, which will also put you in first place to receive promotions for psychedelic products, as they become available to the general public.
What’s the latest?
On May 11th, 2022, the CDC released preliminary data about overdose death rates for the previous year. In 2021, according to the CDC, there were approximately 107,622 overdose deaths, which is a 15% increase from 2020. 2020 set its own record that year, going up 30% from the year before. The overdose death number for 2020, was over 93,000. To be clear, these are only overdose deaths, not specifically opioid deaths. But opioid deaths most certainly drive these numbers, accounting for over 68,000 of the 2020 deaths. So it suffices to say that a quickly rising death rate, is spurred on greatly by opioids.
This is called ‘provisional’ data in that it’s not final numbers, but rather, a first peak into the numbers for the year. Though it’s possible these numbers could change by the time of official release, they are not likely to change in a way that brings the numbers down to acceptable levels. So whether they’re the final and official numbers is inconsequential in this matter, as they show well the scope of the opioid issue in America.
What was the official response to these numbers? White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta stated how it was not acceptable to lose so many lives (at the rate of one every five minutes). He went on to say, “That is why President Biden’s new National Drug Control Strategy signals a new era of drug policy centered on individuals and communities, focusing specifically on the actions we must take right now to reduce overdoses and save lives.”
In April, Biden did send a strategy to Congress for dealing with national drug control, which involves dealing with the overdose epidemic. What that means has not been discussed. But other things have happened in the recent past to indicate that not only is the government not going to do anything useful, but that it actually intends to make the problem worse. Keep reading.
Lower prescribing guidelines?
If the whole idea is to try it actually minimize the opioid deaths issue, the government has made only moves in the opposite direction, and this is more than concerning. In 2016, the CDC issued guidelines for prescribing opioids, which were meant to limit their unnecessary prescription. These guidelines were not legal requirements, but they did set a certain standard for doctors writing prescriptions.
In the midst of this growing issue, what did the CDC do? In February 2022, as in, about three months before these new numbers came out, the CDC proposed loosening these guidelines, which clearly haven’t worked to begin with. The backwards reasoning used relates to doctor’s having to cut off patients prematurely who need their opioids. As the issue has only deepened, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, and signals that its quite the other way around.
To add to the confusion, the CDC doesn’t regulate these things anyway, that’s mainly for the FDA and DEA. And since they therefore aren’t legal regulatory changes, why they exist, or are the basis for news stories, is even more confounding. Loosening guidelines that technically never existed as anything more than illusion, therefore, isn’t a huge thing. But the more fear-inducing aspect is that in the midst of the rising death toll, that this story is the story to come out at all. It shows a lack of understanding of government bodies, and a lack of desire to make real changes that can improve the situation.
What about the lawsuits?
If there’s any question outside the horrifyingly high OD numbers that there’s a substantial and preventable issue – especially concerning opioid deaths, just look at the massive lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies that make them. Just these lawsuits should indicate an immediate need to remove these medications, but even with this information in our faces, the government continues to not only allow these medications, but to promote their use by accepting money from the companies that make them, and not changing regulation for using them.
One of the big lawsuit stories involves the Native American community, which has been hit particularly hard by this epidemic. In February 2022, Johnson & Johnson, along with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, offered a settlement of $590 million to members of any of the federally recognized tribes that are a part of the suit. This means tribes that did not initiate this lawsuit, can still take part in the settlement. It says quite a bit about understanding their own wrongdoing, that these companies offered such a high settlement. Obviously they didn’t want to go to court.
And maybe that’s because these same companies have already agreed to pay out another $26 billion globally for their actions. Funny enough, this statement was made by Johnson & Johnson upon agreeing to this deal in February 2022: “This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.”
Really? Agreeing to settle global suits for an enormous $26 billion…because they feel like it? Imagine what the amount would have been if they had lost in court. Settlements aren’t made by parties that think they’re right, they’re made by parties who are afraid of the worse punishment they’ll incur by going to trial. However, all that aside, just the sheer amount is a clear indication of a mass amount of damage done.
But that’s not the end of it for these Big Pharma companies. Last week, officials in Idaho announced a $119 million settlement against J&J and the other three companies related to the Native American settlement. This settlement is also to help recoup some of the damage done by these drugs to the community, which has suffered a huge amount of opioid deaths. What if every state did this?
According to Governor Brad Little, “Idaho has made significant strides in recent years in combating the opioid crisis, and the culmination of our legal action against opioid manufacturers – led by Attorney General Wasden and his team – now offers additional resources. Altogether, our investments and activities will turn the tide on the opioid crisis.”
Of course, what should be noted, is that Idaho did not ban these drugs from its state. No specific place has made such a move. And this says quite a bit. While everyone wants to capitalize on the blame aspect, and take money from these companies, none want to institute an actual policy (like banning opioids) that could help solve it. Which means even as these settlements happen, the drugs remain available, making for a striking contradiction.
What about ketamine?
If you’ll notice, I implied that these drugs should be removed entirely. Let’s be realistic for a second, the world and its population survived without opioids in the past, so this idea that we need them so badly, is unrealistic at best. We never needed them, we just got used to them.
Now, the idea of removing a drug from someone that they are addicted to, is obviously not the answer either, as this can cause more trauma to the user, and possibly cause their death. So when I say the drugs should be removed, I certainly don’t mean without having another measure in place. And this is where ketamine comes in, as the obvious and practical answer to the opioid epidemic, which is roundly being ignored by the government.
The reason ketamine is so important is because it’s a dissociative hallucinogen which is tightly associated with two things: the ability to help with a range of psychological issues – including addiction, as well as the ability to help with pain management. Both of these aspects are incredibly important right now. Ketamine doesn’t cause addictions, and is known to help people with them, so the idea of replacing one with the other, actually makes sense. Ketamine can help ease the addiction issue, which is a huge part of this crisis. Add onto that that ketamine can then control the pain issues without causing the addictions and death rates of opioids, and its more than obvious. It becomes criminal that its not being used properly to end this.
If you’re asking yourself how that could be. That an answer could exist, and be known to the government, but ignored and not used in favor of more people dying, it’s actually not that far out. The government promotes plenty of bad things when money is put in representative’s pockets. Ketamine is easily created and exists as a wide gray market, unregulated by the US government. Ketamine is a synthetic product, so its pharmaceutical automatically. So why would the government care if one pharma product is used over another, if its main goal is to prop up pharma companies that give it money?
Ketamine is made everywhere by everyone, and doesn’t rely on Big Pharma specifically to produce it. Which means the big pharmaceutical companies that work in tandem with the government (this can be said due to the large amount of money the government takes from these organizations), can’t control the industry. The US legalized esketamine in 2019 as a showing of this understanding, in an effort to divert from the ketamine market. But even then, it left pain treatment out, even though its now the most important aspect considering the opioid crisis.
How long has it been known that ketamine is a great drug for pain which doesn’t cause the same issues of death and addiction? Since studies done on prisoners in the 1960’s. That means for almost 60 years this information has been known, and yet even now when its needed the most, its being suppressed in order to keep doling out the very drugs that are killing people. The very drugs that bring money into Big Pharma and therefore the US government.
When does this end? I suppose when people smarten up enough to let it. I think it really will require a better understanding by the population at large, of what exactly is going on and why. And the sad thing is, this might not happen, or could take years longer meaning more and more opioid deaths. Luckily, with ketamine on the rise, people should be making the connection soon enough, and hopefully if the pressure builds, the US government will be forced to do the right thing…finally.
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Does Quitting Smoking Really Does Make You Eat More? Study Says Yes!
One of the biggest complaints of people quitting smoking, is that they eat more and gain weight. According to new research, this is true, and those attempting to rid themselves of the habit are more likely to pack on the pounds. Here’s why, and some possible options for appetite control.
Quitting smoking is hard enough without considering the possibility for weight gain. With a little self-control, however, the withdrawal period can be traversed without extra pounds put on. We cover everything in the world of smoking and cannabis, which you can follow-along with by signing up for THC Weekly Newsletter. You’ll also receive direct access to deals on products like vapes, edibles, and tons of other cannabis paraphernalia! Along with deals on cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC, which you can access in our “Best-of” lists. But… *If these products make you uncomfortable, we advise that you not use them. The cannabinoid industry is confusing and we don’t promote anyone doing anything they are not comfortable with.
Whether you’ve ever smoked a cigarette or not, you should be familiar with the effects of nicotine withdrawal. This is because so many people do smoke, and at any given point in time, plenty are trying to quit. By a certain age, unless you’re from a super restrictive community, you’ve either gone through it yourself, or witnessed someone else in the process.
Luckily, nicotine withdrawal is not a life-threatening withdrawal, and the worst of it is someone acting like a jerk for a few days to a couple weeks. This makes sense, as one of the biggest symptoms of this withdrawal (and pretty much any withdrawal) is agitation. Not only is the brain agitated over not having something it’s used to, but the person experiencing the withdrawal will be going without the constant reward to their pleasure system that cigarettes create by way of dopamine increases.
Nicotine withdrawal starts within the first few days of quitting cigarettes, and can last up to a few weeks. Symptoms vary between quitters, but generally involve some combination of the following: irritability, anger, impatience, sleep problems, concentration problems, depression, anxiety, restlessness, hunger, weight gain, and intense nicotine cravings. Nicotine binds to nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain that cause extra dopamine release.
Repeatedly smoking nicotine causes neuroadaptation, which is tolerance to some effects. As a part of this, the number of binding sites increases on the nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain, likely as a response to the desensitization of the nicotine-mediation of these receptors. This desensitization is “ligand-induced closure and unresponsiveness of the receptor”…and “is believed to play a role in tolerance and dependence: the symptoms of craving and withdrawal begin in smokers when desensitized α4 β2* nicotinic cholinergic receptors become responsive during periods of abstinence, such as nighttime sleep. Nicotine binding of these receptors during smoking alleviates craving and withdrawal.”
When a person quits, those receptors become sensitized, and without the ability to desensitize them, the person will experience symptoms of withdrawal. “Thus, smokers are probably attempting to avoid withdrawal symptoms when maintaining a desensitized state. By sustaining sufficient levels of plasma nicotine to prevent withdrawal symptoms, they also derive rewarding effects from the conditioned reinforcements associated with smoking, such as the taste and feel of smoke.”
Does quitting smoking, mean you eat more?
While it might not be the top reason for a smoker to continue smoking, one of the common complaints of quitters is the inability to control their appetite, and the subsequent weight gain, since the former smoker is eating more. How much are the two related? A study from last year delves right into it.
Entitled Tobacco withdrawal increases junk food intake: The role of the endogenous opioid system, the study intended to find if withdrawal leads to more junk food being eaten – specifically defined as foods high in salt, fat, and sugar. And if eating said junk food during this period involves the endogenous opioid system. In order to do this, 76 smokers were randomly split into two groups of 42 and 34. The group of 42 was made to abstain from smoking for 24 hours, and the group of 34 was left to keep smoking at normal rates. A third group of non-smokers, comprised of 29 people, was also used for comparison. All participants were between 18 and 75 years of age.
Two lab sessions were done with participants either being given placebo, or 50 mg of naltrexone, a drug used to reduce cravings. After the sessions, the participants were given a snack tray with different options of junk food, with self-report measures for mood taken right before the snack tray was introduced. “Generalized linear and logistic models were used to assess the effects of acute smoking withdrawal, drug, and sex on the intake of snack items and self-reported measures.”
Though no difference was found for low sugar and low fat foods, it was found that quitting smoking led participants to eat more calories, with those receiving naltrexone showing less likelihood to choose the high fat foods. Smokers going through withdrawal consumed more calories than the non-smokers did.
The study backs up the idea that those quitting smoking tend to not only eat more, but to consume lower quality food. It was also found that “the opioid system may be a mechanism of withdrawal-induced intake of junk foods.”
Why would this be the case?
In terms of why this is the case, the study didn’t seek to go into this, but there are things to consider that might explain the phenomenon. After all, smoking provides constant rewards for the brain in terms of a nicotine hit that leads to a dopamine increase, and the re-desensitization of receptors. What else causes dopamine increases? Eating. And what foods cause large dopamine increases? Foods high in sugar and fat.
At a time of withdrawal, the body is in a state of agitation since it can’t get the substance its used to getting, which allows for more dopamine to be released, and for the standard process of desensitization to occur. In order to help quell the withdrawal, the ex-user might be more inclined to consume foods that also give this same dopamine kick. Thereby replacing nicotine with food. Especially when cigarette cravings are high, junk food probably feels like a good replacement.
So it’s not shocking that people quitting cigarette smoking tend to eat more food, and not only that, to eat more low quality foods that kick off the pleasure centers in the brain. If a person no longer wants the junk food after the nicotine withdrawal has faded, then food replacing cigarettes is temporary. The problem with using such food to replace nicotine, however, is that such food – because it also causes similar dopamine releases – also has an addictive quality, and eating more could become a standard habit.
It should also be remembered that nicotine is a stimulant, and stimulants decrease appetite. Not only can junk food be addictive on its own, but once a person assimilated to a stimulant, isn’t getting that stimulant anymore, their body slows, and hunger increases. This might not be the case in every example of cigarette cessation, but it is a commonly seen effect of quitting smoking to eat more food, and to show more weight gain.
How to not gain weight when quitting smoking
Trading one bad habit for another isn’t really helpful in the end, and its not the idea of anyone quitting smoking, to eat more and gain weight. Since we know this can be expected, however, people attempting to quit have a few things they can do to stave off the hunger and weight gain, or at least to deal with it in a healthy way.
Like having healthy snacks around. Just because you might be craving something unhealthy, it doesn’t mean you can’t derail your brain by giving it something healthy instead. At a time when new patterns are being formed to replace old ones, it’s a good time to start with healthy patterns which hopefully become the norm.
Another thing often pointed at to help with weight gain due to increased eating, is to exercise. Not only is this a healthy behavior, but it helps to burn off extra calories that are eaten during this time. Exercise also helps the body regulate itself better, meaning at a time of instability, exercise can help a person feel better, and to keep their metabolism high.
Take notice of portion sizes. Just because you feel super hungry, doesn’t mean you have to lose all control. By being careful about how much you’re eating, you can make sure not to over-consume calories just because you feel more hungry than usual. Along with this, a person can eat several smaller meals in order to more frequently satiate the appetite, and to keep food intake consistent until the body stabilizes out.
Quitters might also want to access resources in the form of medications that can help. While there are prescription medications available like naltrexone, there are also options like CBD, and psychedelics, the latter of which have recently gained momentum for their ability to help with addiction. It’s okay to need assistance sometimes, and those dealing with withdrawal have non-addictive options that can help. Quitters interested in psychedelics can look into ketamine therapy, as its widely available in clinics, where it can be prescribed for off label use as an addiction treatment.
Fear of gaining weight is one of the things that might make a person reticent about quitting smoking. But it doesn’t have to be an issue so long as the quitter is mindful of their body during this time. Nothing lasts forever, and if an ex-user can get through the initial period of quitting smoking without allowing themselves to eat more, there is no reason to believe that the increased hunger should last forever. Smoking is a bad habit, and quitting is the healthier option. Just best not to replace an addiction to cigarettes, with an addiction to junk food.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
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