Ashvita has just completed her undergraduate degree from FLAME University, a Liberal Education school situated in Pune. Having pursued a major in psychology and a minor in advertising and branding over the course of the last four years, she hopes to implement her learning from both these areas of study into her work.
The negative effects of consuming tobacco are well known. Damage to lungs, oral cancer, heart disease and so on. But, a common theme that runs along these ill effects is that they are all physical. However, the effects of tobacco use transcend the realm of the body, and affect the mind in some ways too! 31st May was “No Tobacco Day”. In light of this, let us look at some of the negative effects of tobacco on psychological well-being.
India is the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world and the third largest producer of it. About 400 million individuals consume tobacco in some form on a regular basis in the country. The most common consumption of tobacco is through cigarettes. Tobacco contains nicotine, the substance responsible for the ‘rush’ when you smoke . When you smoke, nicotine reaches the brain within ten seconds and results in the release of dopamine. This results in an increase in positive feelings, giving smokers a sort of ‘headdress’, as it is often called. When nicotine is cut off, all levels drop to normal. This leads the individual to seek out more nicotine to recreate the feeling of a rush. With regular smoking the amount of nicotine needed to increase dopamine increases. This regularity finally leads to addiction.
Most individuals addicted to smoking claim to use it as a means to deal with high stress levels. But, research indicates that smoking increases tension as well as anxiety. When individuals smoke to reduce anxiety, it only provides a temporary respite. The immediate relief it provides fades to the development of craving for the nicotine because of withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms are sometimes confused with the symptoms of anxiety. Individuals think they are calming their anxious feelings by smoking a cigarette. What they are actually doing is feeding their nicotine cravings. Smoking also affects lung functioning and so increases the frequency of anxiety experienced. This is because of the faster breathing and palpitations resulting in hyperventilation.
Let us now look at the more specific effect on the mental health of individuals suffering from psychological disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to this survey, almost 40% of all adult cigarette consumption is by individuals with mental illnesses. It was further found that individuals who suffered from mental illnesses or substance use disorders had lower mortality. This meant they could die five years earlier than their non-using counterparts.
It was observed that heart disease, lung disease, and cancer are the most common causes of death in such individuals. All three of these causes can a result of the regular consumption of tobacco. According to the CDC, nicotine can interfere with medicines that are used to treat mental illnesses. It inhibits the effect of the medication on treating these illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Lastly, nicotine has the ability to mask the underlying discomfort felt by people with psychological disorders. The discomfort is temporarily dispelled by the nicotine. Thus, these individuals are more prone to developing a smoking habit and nicotine addiction.
The regular use of tobacco has several negative implications for every aspect of your health. While it is difficult, it is definitely not impossible to combat such an addiction. Our next article will discuss how you can quit smoking or any other tobacco product.