Thursday, March 3, 2011

What is addiction?

Have you ever thought of the perfect response to a comment later? That happened to me a few days ago when I was talking to a group of physicians. One said, "Nicotine is not an addiction. Addiction is when you hold up your mother for money to buy your drugs." I mumbled some answer and only later thought about what I wish I had said:

When I talk about nicotine being addictive, I'm talking about how nicotine hijacks the smokers brain, just as other addictive substances also do. What this man was talking about was the behavior to obtain the addict's drug of choice. It is the difference between an illegal, expensive and hard to obtain drug (such as heroin) and a legal, cheap drug that can be bought in every grocery store. If the roles were reversed between heroin and nicotine, I think you would see more heroin addicts because of increased availability but with a cheap cost, crime would drop. On the other hand, if nicotine were illegal, many smokers would quit due to lack of availability but crime would increase. There would be some smokers that would rob their own mothers to get money to buy cigarettes.

Addicts will do almost anything to get their drug of choice regardless of the drug. It is the disorder of the brain that causes this complusion. I've talked to smokers who are homeless and penniless. They will scour the street for tossed butts that they can finish off or get a pack of papers and re-roll the used tobacco. It that's not an addiction, I don't know what is.

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