Solving Cigarette Addiction

Solving Cigarette Addiction

by Charles Gant, MD, PhD, NMD

     There are two main problems with smoking cigarettes. The first problem involves the health risks from the chemicals in them that cause cancer, emphysema, heart problems, and many, many other diseases. When the body tries to break down and eliminate these chemicals, new and dangerous byproducts called “Free Radicals” are formed. They actually cause most of the injury. In other words, the chemicals in the cigarettes themselves cause little injury compared to these breakdown products that the body makes later. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals somewhat. Supplements can prevents much of the possible injury from pollutants like cigarette smoke.

    The second problem is that the main addicting chemical in cigarettes, nicotine, destroys three of the natural, “feel-good” brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These three natural chemicals are of two types, excitatory and inhibitory. The excitatory neurotransmitters – catecholamines – pep us up. The inhibitory one – acetylcholine – relaxes us. Some people get more of an “upper” effect from nicotine, because it artificially stimulates the excitatory catecholamine receptors in their brains. Others get a more relaxing effect from nicotine, because it artificially stimulates their inhibitory brain acetylcholine receptors. And still others get both effects. Whatever the mood change, the brain responds to the presence of artificial chemicals by making fewer natural neurotransmitters. When your brain’s ability to make its natural nicotine-like substances (acetylcholine or catecholamines) is totally suppressed, you’re compelled to find the artificial chemical (nicotine) to fill those receptors in your brain. Something has to go in there to keep your mood even. The absence of anything to fill these receptors causes the unpleasant symptoms known as withdrawal. This is why nicotine is addictive. Please be assured that “cutting down” or even stopping has very little to do with your personality, mental state, or “will power.” It is mostly biochemical.

     Because we knew which natural neurotransmitters were missing from smokers’ brains, and we knew how they were manufactured in their bodies from certain food components, we started giving smokers some of these (tyrosine, an amino acid, and choline, found in lecithin) several years ago. We wanted to see if they would help people replace their “natural nicotine” much faster than waiting around for days (or weeks), craving cigarettes and wondering when their bodies would eventually figure out how to manufacture these neurotransmitters again. This simple science panned out – smokers’craving diminished dramatically.

      Smokers who wanted to stop completely found it much easier. Smokers who did not want to stop completely found that their cigarette use was generally cut to about one-third of what it had been when they took a certain combination of nutrients (tyrosine, an amino acid, and choline, found in lecithin). Even smokers who didn’t want to stop at all who took supplements, were perplexed to find their urges reduced and cut down to a third also. Smokers who use other methods, such as hypnosis or acupuncture, or the suggestions and recommendations offered by professional organizations like The American Heart Association, find that other techniques are more effective when the natural nicotine is being regenerated by nutritional supplements.

     As I mentioned earlier, another problem with smoking is the free radical injury that comes with it. I recommend that you also take a good antioxidant nutrient. Combined with other nutrients, antioxidants can markedly decrease health risks for smokers who do not quit completely. The lower rate of tobacco use generates fewer free radicals, and the antioxidants partially neutralize whatever free radical injury might occur. For the smoker who stops smoking completely, eventual recovery is much more likely to succeed if cravings aren’t a problem.

      The first step to master in solving a cigarette addiction is to accept that it truly is an addiction – you probably cannot stop without some help. The next step is asking for help. Regardless of whatever else you do to help you stop smoking, using supplements can enhance the benefits of the other interventions.

     And if you are not ready to stop completely, that’s okay too. Supplements will probably decrease the urge so much that you won’t be able to smoke anywhere near as much as you did before taking the products. You’ll also get valuable antioxidant protection from the remaining free-radical-laden smoke that does get in.

©2009