Since the media is doing a rather poor job of getting word out about the drug addiction considered by most to be merely a socially accepted "habit," I hope to set the record straight.
The central element of every form of drug addiction is that the user's behavior is largely controlled by a mind-altering substance. Compulsive use of the drug occurs in spite of damage to the individual or society. It frequently takes priority over important matters. Drug misuse generally persists despite a desire to quit.
In tobacco use, especially cigarette smoking, nicotine is the drug causing the addiction. The processes that determine nicotine addiction are similar to those related to such drugs as heroin and cocaine. Research has proven that nicotine is more addicting than cocaine. Physical dependence develops with use; withdrawal occurs with cessation.
One makes an honest effort to stop smoking only when that person realizes the risks from continuing smoking, understands the value in stopping, and believes that cessation is achievable.
In the case of nicotine, even the sight of tobacco or smoke increases the smoker's desire to smoke. This is why it is urgent that we insist on the banning of all advertisements for cigarettes and other tobacco products. Otherwise, many of those addicted are fighting a losing battle.
Michael S. Cole, M.D.
14 April 1989
Southwest Times Record