Smoking, Vaping, Chewing Tobacco- We all know that none of it is good for our health. In fact, they’re all downright bad for us. But quitting is hard. It’s uncomfortable, it’s challenging, and it’s annoying. However, the benefits of enduring the withdrawal period, and quitting for good, doesn’t just positively impact our physical health, it helps our mental health as well.
It is well known that the addictive chemical found in tobacco products is Nicotine. But what is nicotine?
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound that is present in the tobacco plant and is also created synthetically in a lab. All tobacco products contain nicotine, be it cigarettes, vapes, hookah, cigars, or chewing tobacco. Though nicotine itself has not been found to be cancer-causing or excessively harmful, its presence in all tobacco products leads to a dependency on them. This dependency leads to the ingestion of thousands of chemicals found in tobacco products that help make smoking the number one (most preventable) cause of death in the United States.
Smoking any kind of tobacco product has been directly linked to fatal lung diseases and many other types of cancer. Most of us already know this. But what we might not know, is the impact it has on mental health issues.
According to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, tobacco users are 2.4 times more likely to have a diagnosis of depression, when compared to non-tobacco users. These products can also make those that are already diagnosed with depression, worse.
This claim is backed by a 2017 research study of nearly 2,500 ninth graders in Los Angeles that had either never used the tobacco product, e-cigarettes, or those that use them. They found that those who used e-cigarettes were associated with having significantly higher depressive symptoms. And, when researchers followed up a year later, those who continued to use the products reported feeling more depressed, sad, and had an increase in crying spells.
Well, what about anxiety? Some people say they smoke because it helps them cope with stress and anxiety? So does it?
No, in fact, in reality, the use of tobacco products can actually cause anxiety or exacerbate it. A 2019 study of U.S. college students, backs this up, as they found that the use of tobacco products is significantly associated with higher levels of ADHD symptoms, and nicotine dependence was correlated with greater anxiety symptoms.
While some people think the dopamine hit that comes with using these products makes them feel better, the truth is, it’s only relieving the symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal- one of which is anxiety. Nicotine is so addictive, that a few seconds after exhaling a tobacco product, withdrawal kicks in, causing unpleasant symptoms, like anxiety, until your next smoke. Continue smoking, continue the cycle of anxiety,
On the plus side, another study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2014, analyzed the results of 26 studies regarding smoking and mental health and found that quitting smoking is linked to lower levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and an increase in a positive mood, and overall quality of life. Some research even suggests that quitting tobacco, in the long run, can have an antidepressant-like effect. Studies have also shown that quitting tobacco products can decrease stress within only two weeks.
Ok, I want to feel better, so I’ll quit. Now what?
We’ve all heard about how hard it is to quit using tobacco products- but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, there is no way around the withdrawal symptoms from discontinuing nicotine. You’re likely to feel a temporary increase in depression and anxiety, as well as some irritability, and potentially some sleep issues. But these are TEMPORARY. And believe it or not, after only a few days, your body will begin to repair itself, and you will start to feel the cloud of addiction lift.
One way to work through the challenging aspects of quitting is to focus on the rewarding benefits that begin right away. One of the most rewarding benefits of quitting is the self-esteem boost that comes with it. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re knowingly putting harmful chemicals in your body. And it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you can feel the adverse effects of these substances. But in quitting, you are taking a huge step toward self-care and self-improvement. You’re standing up for yourself and your life. And, you’re going to look better, breathe better, and feel much better.
So if you are a smoker, an e-cigarette user, or a user of any form of tobacco product, do yourself and your life a favor- Quit.
For helpful tips to quit using tobacco products, check out the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/index.htm