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2005-08-02 12:44:33 (UTC)

Smoking - Thinking differently about addiction

from: danl1 date: 10/29/2004 8:49:44 AM delete?

Subject: RE: A question
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The book would be "The Nicotine Trick" by Neil Casey. He
has a reasonably facts-based approach that avoids what was
for me the major weakness of Carr - the "societal
branwashing" concept of addiction. I jusy couldn't buy into
that.

However, the concept of "brainwashing" itself I've found to
be very useful. A deeper understanding of the roles of
acetylcholine and dopamine, and the ways in which nicotine
intake (particularly as a bolus as from smoking) effect
them helped me come up with a model that works best for me.

I was never willing to accept addiction as some great
mystery, which is what way too much literature and the
majority of addicts make it out to be. I went instead to
look at the symptoms and roles from other disciplines - and
found what I was looking for. The model I use holds that
nicotine use did nothing (addictively speaking) other than
help us to form the (incorrect) belief that it can improve
things. This of course causes a bit of trouble, since by
definition as an addict I must have believed that it did.

Recognizing that conscious and unconscious bits of me could
have different estimations of things helped a great deal. I
began to realize that much of what we feel in quitting is
not about nicotine or it's lack, it's simply about that
fighting - as our rational minds try to avoid disaster by
not smoking, while our more instinctual bits try to avoid a
different disaster (usually, a sense of breakdown) by
smoking. The resulting battle - one for our very survival,
in the estimation of those parts involved - creates a kind
of stress that few ever experience, and certainly not for
this length of time. So yeah, this feels like a
mysterious 'demon' of addiction. But once I got an
understanding of the process behind it, the curtain
dropped. Cool too, that the model explains other addictions
equally. This has always been the mystery of addiction -
how chemicals (and even activities that have no chemical
interaction, such as gambling) that are so different could
yield effectively the same addictive result.

The so-called "addictive personality" has been discounted
by the profession for more than a decade now. And twin
studies gave trouble for a strictly genetic-based model. No
doubt, there are things in both upbringing and in our
genetics that make it somewhat more likely that someone
will fall prey to one thing or another. But I refuse to
accept the notion that we "are" addicts.

Psychologically, addiction is nothing except a deregulated
desire. And desire, both normally and abnormally, springs
from only one source: the expectation of benefit. It is
quite simply impossible to want something that you do not
believe will improve our condition. But nicotine changed
those beliefs. Not by providing something "good" - but by
affecting foundational systems in our brains in a way that
made it easy (in fact, necessary) for us to beleive that it
did. Also helpful in the quest to understand and change
these beliefs was simply looking beyond my own nose. The
vast majority of the world doesn't believe that smoking
supplies all of these terrific benefits, despite the fact
that most of them have tried smoking. So, I had to be
willing to accept the possibility that I was the one that
was wrong. Another help was looking into the academic
literature, and finding that there was a distinct lack of
support for the things I held smoking to be "good for." The
link below is a great resource for that.

http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/pubs/books/nicotine/3-psychol.htm

How well? The box looks a lot different from the outside.
It's quite small, and really rather flimsy. I'll not smoke
again, and not because I'm strong, or smart, or brave. I'll
not smoke again simply because I finally see that there was
never any reason to smoke.


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