Smoking is a dangerous activity. Not only because of the health effects, but also because of its highly addictive nature. However, many people see it as a less severe addiction than other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or meth. For this reason, many people recovering from drug addictions will either begin smoking or start smoking again as a way to cope. This tendency has left people wondering if it really is helping or if it is simply replacing one addiction with another.
Health Risks of Smoking
Though it may be true that a nicotine addiction is less severe than some other drug addictions, cigarettes still pose serious health risks. In the mid 1960s, the U.S. Surgeon General officially confirmed that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. Since then, many other ailments and diseases have been linked to cigarettes.
One of the issues that smoking is linked to is blindness. Many people do not realize that cigarettes can do serious damage to your eyes. Smoking significantly increases your chances of age-related macular degeneration.
Smoking also contributes to type two diabetes. Not only does it contribute to the disease, it increases the chance of complications. One of the potential complications is poor blood flow in the legs and feet, which can lead to serious infections that may even require amputation.
Cigarette addictions can also affect sexual function. Men who smoke cigarettes can experience erectile dysfunction. Tobacco causes blood vessels all over the body to narrow.
Smokers often lose bone density faster than those who do not smoke. Lower bone density raises your chances of breaking bones such as hips.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Research has found that smoking cigarettes is linked to an increased risk of dying from colorectal cancer.
Our mouths are not protected from the dangers of smoking. Cigarette use increases your chances of gum disease, an infection that destroys the bone supporting our teeth. People with gum disease can begin to lose their teeth.
Risks to Women Who Smoke
Smoking leads to severe problems for women. Cigarettes can cause fertility issues and problems during pregnancy. Smokers are more likely to have ectopic pregnancies, which occur when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can be fatal for the baby and the mother. Birth defects can also occur in infants with mothers who smoke. Women who smoke while they are pregnant are more likely to have children with a cleft lip or palate.
More common in women, the effects of rheumatoid arthritis are made more severe by smoking. It can cause painful swelling in your hands and feet that can eventually result in bone loss and deformity.
Smoking Statistics and Related Fatalities
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million Americans suffer from a smoking-related disease. For every person who dies from a smoking-related illness, 30 more around the country are suffering from an illness caused or exacerbated by smoking.
Causing almost six million deaths a year, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Research predicts that the fatalities will significantly increase in the next 12 years. On average, smokers die ten years sooner than non-smokers.
Nicotine as a Gateway Drug
The nicotine in cigarettes has intensely addicting qualities. Because smoking does not have a fatality rate as high as some other drugs, many people feel more okay about cigarettes. However, along with the health risks that cigarettes pose, they can also serve as a gateway to other drugs.
By taking up smoking, someone has already accepted addiction into their life and will become accustomed to using a drug. The more they adapt to using a drug, the easier it will be to use other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and meth. It only takes a few small leaps to go from smoking a cigarette, to smoking marijuana, to trying cocaine.
It does not help that smoking is relatively socially acceptable. In addition, many people don’t even think about picking up a cigarette – until they have a cocktail. Though some people are more adamantly opposed to smoking, most people will not factor smoking tendencies into their opinions about a person. Even if you are a serious smoker who needs to step out for a cigarette numerous times a day, you will still be able to function in personal and professional life. With harder drugs such as cocaine, it is more likely that people will judge you and that it will impact your daily life. Picking up cigarettes is easy and often has very few immediate consequences.
Though a cigarette addiction does not lead to a fatal overdose like other drugs, it is still a dangerous problem. Picking up cigarettes as a way to cope with giving up another addiction can introduce a whole new series of health issues.
Cigarettes as a Last Stand During Addiction Treatment
For anyone who is considering a drug or alcohol treatment problem but has a smoking habit, removing all addictive substances during the detoxification and recovery process is asking a lot. For some, having the opportunity to continue cigarette smoking throughout treatment provides a mental relief from the physical and emotional stresses endured during the initial weeks and months on the road to clean and sober.
If the 12-step motto “One day at a time,” has worked for millions of people around the world to stay in a life of sobriety, it might work well when considering breaking the habit of cigarette use. One day at a time.
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