Is nicotine a drug like heroin?

Nicotine is a plant poison. Most plants have poisons as protection against foreign insects. The plants we eat do; almonds have arsenic and potatoes have nightshade. Some plant poisons are psychoactive, meaning they’re drugs. A psychoactive plant poison changes a person’s emotional state and their perception. Nicotine doesn’t do either and it’s the reason that people are able to smoke cigarettes and still go to work, because they’re not high!

Humans have been aware of and used the known psychoactive plant poisons like marijuana, cocaine from the cocoa leaf and heroin from the poppy flower for thousands of years. And nicotine has never been sold on the street as a drug. Nobody would buy it, because you can’t get high from it. In fact it is quite unpleasant to consume nicotine. If a non-smoker, without a tolerance to nicotine, were to use a nicotine patch, within a short period of time they would experience the side effects of poisoning, including elevated heart rate, nausea and anxiety.

Is nicotine physically addictive?

It has been scientifically proven that smoking is not as a result of a physical addiction to nicotine. Two well respected professors of psychology, at the University of Tel Aviv, have reviewed every published experiment proving that nicotine is addictive. Of the more that 700 experiments reviewed not one experiment conclusively proves that nicotine is an addictive substance. Their work was published in 2002 and it was open to peer review, so the scientists that performed those experiments had an opportunity to defend their work. And they received no response from the scientific community.

Interestingly there are experiments that prove that nicotine is not addictive. In studies in which nicotine is introduced directly into an ex-smokers body, bypassing the structure of the smoking habit, not one person started smoking again. And in studies in which ex-smokers smoked nicotine-free tobacco many started smoking again. It is engaging in the old habit that causes a relapse, not an addiction to nicotine.

Is smoking really just a habit?

It has been proven since 2002 that smoking is a compulsive behaviour, similar to a compulsion to gamble. If a gambler were to try and stop gambling they would experience what a smoker does, apart from a 3-day nicotine detox, of course. A gambler would experience physical cravings that last 3 to 5 minutes. And if they were to continue to restrict themselves they might feel irritable and experience mood swings.

Most compulsive behaviours express a physical craving, including “addictions” to watching television and playing internet games. Almost any behaviour that is repeated consistently, where there is also an anticipation of a reward, will eventually develop a physical craving.

Prior to 1993 the definition of compulsive behaviours was distinct from the definition of addictions. The word addiction used to refer to a substance dependency. Now the word addiction applies to any behaviour that is repetitive in nature over which we feel we don’t have control.

What is a craving?

The unconscious mind is the automatic mind and one of the ways that it learns is through repetition. If a behaviour is repeated consistently enough, like driving a car, and there is also an anticipation of a reward from the behaviour, then an unconscious craving is generated at those times that the behaviour is repeated in the past.

The reason most of us don’t have a craving for driving a car, is because there wasn’t that anticipation of a reward from driving when we learned to drive, that there was from smoking when we learned to smoke.

An unconscious craving is a physical sensation in the abdomen. It can be described as an empty feeling that needs to be filled. It is often referred to as a physical urge to do something. It usually lasts 3 to 5 minutes and if one is distracted by something else, it simply disappears.

Will I have withdrawal symptoms?

When a smoker attempts to stop smoking they describe a number of side effects collectively known as withdrawal symptoms. The term withdrawal symptom is misleading since nicotine is not a drug. Typically a heroin addict, that is physically addicted, experiences withdrawals.

Smoking “withdrawal symptoms” are a combination of detox symptoms, conscious thoughts of smoking and unconscious cravings. The extent to which a smoker experiences one or all of these varies from person to person. The MINDCODE method is designed to address all three of these “symptoms” related to stopping smoking.

Most smokers that stop smoking experience a 3-day nicotine detox. The detox can include symptoms of anxiety. Fortunately, with MINDCODE the detox effect can be overridden or drastically reduced. And the breath-work that is included in the program assists in alleviating anxiety.

What if I relapse?

When a person that has successfully stopped smoking relapses after some time, it is a result of a conscious decision to smoke a cigarette again, because they had not yet completely changed their belief that smoking is enjoyable or beneficial, that it might help them, for instance, cope through a challenging situation or relieve their stress.

The person may have stopped smoking for months or even years, and really enjoyed the benefits of being free from smoking, but if at the time they stopped smoking, they believed that a cigarette relieved stress, that could be the reason for a relapse in the future.

Relapse is one of the stages that a person goes through on the journey to stopping smoking permanently. The experience can be used to convince oneself that being free from smoking and living a healthier life is a far better way to live.