Tobacco plant leaves are dried, cured, fermented, and jazzed up with flavors and sugars then smoked, chewed, or sniffed. The pleasure that derives from them has been coveted for millennia. Tobacco contains nicotine, a drug that satisfies many different cravings. Need stimulation? Check! Need relaxation? Check! Need comfort? Check! All of this is due to nicotine’s effects on our pleasure-producing neurotransmitters: Dopamine, GABA, endorphin, and serotonin.
In his book “the brain chemistry plan”, physician Michael Lesser, MD suggests some people who are nervous or upset smoke because the nicotine in cigarettes can also convert into the B vitamin niacin (called nicotinic acid) which has calming qualities.
Tobacco constricts the flow of blood to the brain and body parts, can contribute to depression, miscarriage, infertility, heart disease, emphysema, cancer, high cadmium levels, and wrinkles, and, in addition, to nicotine contains some 4,000 different toxic chemicals that may not only adversely affect the smoker’s health in multiple ways it even influences the lives of people who are exposed to it after the fact in the rooms in which cigarettes were smoked by others. Third hand smoke exposure from carpet, drapes, and sofas, may change a person’s DNA and create cancerous tumors.
In spite of all these negatives, most drug treatment programs allow clients to smoke, and many counselors in recovery smoke as well. However, research by Elizabeth Stuyt, MD, Medical Director of the Circle Program at Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo in Pueblo, Colorado, suggests smoking while in treatment for addiction is counterproductive. In multiple research studies including Dr. Stuyt’s own, smoking cessation is associated with significantly greater abstinence from all drug use after graduation from a treatment program.
Recently e-cigarettes have attracted young people as a safer alternative because they vaporize the nicotine instead of burning tobacco, but “vaping” is still being researched and no long-term studies have confirmed its safety. In fact, they contain toxins such as acrolein (an irritant to eyes, nose, and skin), formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), and diacetyl (causing problems to lungs). And, addictive nicotine is still addictive.
Unrelenting withdrawal symptoms like irritability, trouble sleeping, inattention, and cravings for food and tobacco drive the vast majority of people quitting smoking to relapse. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a variety of pharmacological aids to stopping smoking, which deliver nicotine in small doses to help prevent withdrawal as the user cuts back. These include nicotine gum, the transdermal nicotine patch, nicotine nasal spray, and a nicotine inhaler. There are also drugs such as Zyban and Chantix, which have different ways of helping smokers quit. Of the two, only Chantix actually works on the same receptors affected by nicotine but both have undesirable side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, and headache, with Zyban also causing muscle pain, itching, and loss of interest in sex while Chantix also can cause insomnia. That is why taking targeted amino acids to nourish the nervous system and replenish neurotransmitter stores will help the smoker become a nonsmoker more easily and successfully than simply stopping cold turkey or using pharmaceutical aides.
Alliance cofounder Charles Gant, MD, PhD, devotes an entire chapter of his book End Your Addiction Now to stopping smoking. He tells the story of a patient who didn’t want to stop smoking but was in a hospital-based recovery program for alcoholism and receiving nutrients daily as a part of his alcohol recovery program. Dr. Gant slipped in specific nutrients (listed below) to help reduce nicotine cravings, and within three days the patient was noticing he was burning cigarettes out of habit, not out of need. In addition, they were beginning to taste like cardboard. Replenishing the missing nutrients after years of smoking quickly begins to relieve cravings.
Here are the six nutritional supplements Dr. Gant recommended to help reduce nicotine withdrawal cravings and symptoms: B Complex, multi-mineral, l-glutamine, l-tyrosine, 5HTP, and phosphatidyl choline. For specific dosages, see End Your Addiction Now. Some smokers require DL-phenylalanine (DLPA) or GABA supplementation instead of or in addition, depending on which neurotransmitters are most depleted (as per the amino acid assessment questionnaire). NICOLE PLEASE LINK TO IT.
B Complex – nourishes the nervous system
Multi-mineral – helps transform amino acids into the neurotransmitters that affect mood
L-glutamine – keeps blood sugar even and increases energy
L-tyrosine – builds more dopamine and a sense of reward and energy
5HTP – builds more serotonin for a sense of happiness and improves sleep
Phosphatidyl choline – a phospholipid important for improving all brain cell function, including neurotransmitter production.
DLPA – helps increase pleasure and comfort by maintaining endorphin levels.
GABA – for natural relaxation.
End Your Addiction Now: The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free; Charles Gant, MD, and Greg Lewis, PhD; Square One; 2010.
The brain chemistry plan by Michael Lesser, MD, Perigee, 2003, p.167
American Chemical Society (ACS). "Major 'third-hand smoke' compound causes DNA damage and potentially cancer." ScienceDaily. 16 March 2014
The Health Effects of Electronic Cigarettes
Chitra Dinakar, M.D., and George T. O’Connor, M.D.
N Engl J Med 2016; 375:1372-1381October 6, 2016
American Chemical Society. "Exposure to toxins in e-cig vapor varies depending on scenario." ScienceDaily, 2 August 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170802082930.htm
Enforced Abstinence from Tobacco During In-Patient Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Improves Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes in Smokers. Elizabeth B. Stuyt, MD, The American Journal on Addictions, XX: 1-6, 2014
Recovery rates after treatment for alcohol/drug dependence. Tobacco users vs. non-tobacco users.
Am J Addict. 1997 Spring;6(2):159-67.