Question: I'm Addicted to Nicotine Gum - Now What?
I quit smoking 8 months ago, and used nicotine gum to help me do it. I still chew the gum, and am starting to wonder whether I might be addicted to it. I only chew two or three pieces a day, though. Isn't that a lot better than smoking a pack of cigarettes every day?
Answer: This is a tough issue to come to grips with. On the one hand, chewing a couple of pieces of nicotine gum everyday is much better than smoking. Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemical compounds; 250 of which are known to be poisonous, and upwards of 70 have been identified as carcinogens.
We also know that inhaling secondhand smoke is hazardous, and for a smoker it's a double whammy because he breathes in both mainstream and sidestream smoke. And research continues -- we don't yet fully understand all of the dangers that cigarette smoke presents.
However, while cigarette smoke is worse than nicotine alone, nicotine is not a harmless drug. There is growing concern that long-term use of nicotine may contribute to cancer. It also affects how our bodies function -- nicotine puts stress on the heart and increases blood pressure.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology has reported that nicotine harms the linings of our arteries which leads to the build-up of plaque, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Additionally, nicotine suppresses insulin output creating a hyperglycemic condition in smokers. The bottom line is that nicotine is a poison, and the human body is much better off without it.
Freedom From Addiction
While it's true that the amount of nicotine you're getting daily from the gum is small when compared to smoking, psychologically, the effect is significant. The message you're sending and receiving is that you can't live without nicotine -- that you're not strong enough to give nicotine up completely.
Don't sell yourself short. If you managed to stop smoking, you can go one step further and eliminate your dependance on therapeutic nicotine as well.
Work out a plan to wean yourself off of nicotine gum, and be willing to do the work it takes to achieve your goal. And don't be afraid to let people know what is going on with you. Ask for support, and the load you're bearing will become much lighter. You'll be surprised at how understanding folks are. So don't be ashamed. You are not the first person who has ever had this problem -- far from it.
The Threat of a Smoking Relapse
Recovery from this addiction involves learning how to deal with life's ups and downs nicotine-free. If you remain dependent on nicotine, regardless of the form it comes in, you run an increased risk of a smoking relapse. Additionally, as is the case with habit-forming drugs, your tolerance for nicotine will increase over time and so will your intake.
When the right (or wrong) situation presents itself, you may find it's a short jump to lighting up when a piece of nicotine gum isn't handy or just doesn't do the trick in taking the edge off. Stressful situations will continue to trigger the urge for nicotine until you clear it out of your system and learn new ways of coping.
You deserve a life that is free of nicotine addiction. Believe in yourself -- you are strong enough to get nicotine out of your body and out of your life.
Should I Avoid Using NRTs Entirely?
Absolutely not. NRTs have helped many thousands of smokers kick the habit successfully. Quitting tobacco isn't easy, and no two people are alike. Having a variety of quit aids available ultimately means more lives saved.
Just remember: NRTs are not intended for long-term use.
Regardless of what we do in life, most things carry some level of risk. NRTs are no different. Understand the potential for misuse; be careful to follow the manufacturer's directions exactly, and wean yourself off the NRT product of your choice in the time period suggested.