tiistai 16. helmikuuta 2016

Part 1: Personal thoughts on addiction and dependence

So far, this blog has been basically a placeholder for personal things that do not necessarily fit under my capacity as a reporter for the finnish vaping association Vapers Finland RY, but I've been thinking about dependence and addiction lately and thought I might as well write down some of my own personal experiences as a thought exercise instead of a more official article. So don't expect anything polished or even necessarily coherent :)

I've always considered myself as a sort of "addictive" personality, prone to hyper-focusing on things and of course, while I was a smoker it was fairly clear that it was a major addiction (using that term subjectively here, mind you. Actual coherent definition is needed, but I'm sure most of the current versions would include what I did as a smoker). But after I found vaping and got rid of the smoking dependence issue.. I've been thinking about the issue a lot more and maybe even more analytically than before. When I smoked, it was just sort of something I did. I had all the usual signs: irritability while abstaining, irresistible cravings after an hour or so, pack a day without fail, really really really wanted to quit but was unable to.

What I never really experienced is the euphoria that's supposedly an integral part of the process and mechanisms of addiction. No sense of a supposed "nicotine-rush", only the occasional dizziness that's almost certainly attributable to carbon dioxide exposure. So what was the benefit I was getting from cigarettes then? The moment of relaxation of going out on the balcony and inhaling deep perhaps? Just the pleasure of the behaviour itself?
Clearly there was something to it that kept me doing it for over a decade.
Now, most people you would present this scenario to would instantly answer that "obviously you are just addicted to nicotine".

But in all honesty, is that even true?

The difference now is almost not even comparable. My vaping experience has totally transformed my thinking on the whole concept of dependence, since none of the classic signs are really present. I do use nicotine all the same, inhaling like I used to, but all the cravings and withdrawal effects are just gone. The major difference now I actually find pleasure in the behavior, especially since I can really fine tune the experience to match my preferences of throat hit, flavor, warmth and volume.

So am I still addicted?

For example, the DSM5 criterion list:
Use longer and larger amounts than intended. Not really. I never really thought about how long and how much should or should not use nicotine. I vape when I feel like it, so unless there's an objective measure for this it does not even apply.
Wanting to cut down or quit and not being able. Not really, no. Neither option is appealing to me, the benefits are much larger than abstinence.
Spending a lot of time obtaining nicotine. Definitely not, though I do enjoy a lot of flavors so designing recipes is a part of the habit. Maybe that counts, kinda? I don't really know.
Cravings or strong urges. This happens on occasion, depending on my liquid. Takes most of the day, but I can easily avoid this by using flavorings like rhubarb, chili or others that simulate the throat hit from nicotine. So clearly even the withdrawal is not caused by nicotine itself, but rather the sensory experience.
Activities, responsibilities, interpersonal relation problems and such only really apply to drug abuse I think. Even most smokers don't seem to experience these. So no, none of this.
Recurrent use in hazardous situations. Noo.. don't think so? Pretty sure I don't need to take out my mod regardless of the situation.
Consistent use despite acknowledgement of physical and psychological harm. Unlikely, I'm fairly confident these are not present in vaping. I do however acknowledge the inherent risks in inhalation exposure, so maybe this applies? But again, benefits are much larger so I'm making the informed choice to do so.
Tolerance. Decreasing steadily, I actually need to drop nicotine volume in liquids slightly from time to time, because I get the feeling it's too strong even though I'm absolutely sure it's not actually stronger. Enough said I think.
Withdrawal. See cravings, it's the only classic symptom I have experienced.

Apparently, I'm not addicted. Then when did I get cured, since I never actually stopped using nicotine but just changed the delivery method? Clearly I was highly dependent on smoking, but none of that is apparent with vaping.. So what gives? Logically it was NOT the nicotine in cigarettes, as conventional wisdom would suggest, but something else entirely.

Is nicotine actually addictive or not? Was I ever really even dependent on nicotine?
Nowadays I'm leaning heavily on "no".

2 kommenttia:

  1. I have never felt nicotine was addictive in and of itself. Everytime I said this people would want to argue about my being "addicted". Self harm is a key component of addiction eh? Using the chosen "poison" {for lack of a better word } when it makes you miss work, be late, lie to people to get said drug/poison,time spent finding said poison are all what I view as "self harms". What about the harm to your families and friends? That is {imo} a crucial part of what being addicted means. Doing things you wouldn't ordinarily do because "you don't want to feel ill" all these and the issues you mentioned are key components in addiction by any definition. Yet none of these hold true for nicotine.....

  2. Nicotine is beneficial and I believe it is not addictive. Apparently, MAOIs are added to cigarettes to cause the addition. In clinical trials, Dr. Paul Newhouse of Vanderbilt University, gives never smokers high strength nicotine patches, for a period of six months at a time, in order to treat cognitive problems, depressions, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and also Ulcerative Colitis. (It has also used elsewhere with success for epileptic seizures.) Nobody became addicted to the nicotine or started smoking. Pharmaceutical companies won approval for long term and concomitant use of their NRT products, with other nicotine containing products (including cigarettes), with no concerns for safety or abuse (addiction) by citing Dr. Newhouse's trials.

    When nicotine patches came out, we started to become bombarded with messages that nicotine is highly addictive, in order to sell them and for us to keep using them and smokers self reinforce these messages everyday. If we found out that nicotine isn't addictive, there would be no point in using these patches past about the first 72 hours. Patches and gums have a failure rate of 94-98.2%, the nicotine uptake is slow and below that of cigarettes and of course, they aren't pleasant to use and they don't address the all important behavioural aspect, which is why vaping is such a success.

    When we start vaping, we lose our tolerance to nicotine because it isn't addictive, which is why we gradually feel the need to reduce it. So we aren't swapping one addiction for another.

    You might find this site very useful and informative. It's about vaping politics but also has some other great pages and several on nicotine in the right hand margin.
    Is Nicotine Addictive? http://www.ecigarette-politics.com/is-nicotine-addictive.html