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Substance Abuse - Tobacco

Commonly Known As: cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, chew, smokes, cancer sticks.

Access to Drug: Tobacco is a legal substance and sold commercially. However, it is illegal for stores to sell cigarettes or other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. It is highly addictive.

Scientific Name: Tobacco comes from the Nicotiana tabacum plant and a number of its variants. Nicotine is one of the ingredients in the tobacco leaves, and the addictive product found in the plant. Tobacco is a stimulant and affects the same areas of the brain as cocaine and amphetamines but not as intensely.

Interesting Facts: Recorded history shows tobacco was one of the gifts offered to Christopher Columbus by the Indians when he landed in the West Indies in 1492. It was brought back to Europe where it was used for medicinal and recreational purposes and quickly spread to Russia, Japan, Africa and China. The first smoking ban occurred in New York in 1639 but was ignored. In 1881, the cigarette rolling machine was invented, and the use of cigarettes skyrocketed. Despite current research affirming the addictive qualities and life threatening diseases caused by cigarettes, tobacco continues to be a widely abused drug worldwide. Studies have shown that smoking in the teen years is more addictive than starting in adulthood; evidence shows most smokers acquire their habit before the age of 20.

Methods of Use: Smoked in commercially rolled cigarettes, hand rolled from loose tobacco, in pipes, chewed and absorbed through the gums, and in some instances, used as an enema.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: The nicotine and other chemicals in the tobacco initially cause a “kick” due to its stimulation effects. Heart rate increases slightly, and there is a release of adrenaline in the body, producing a mildly pleasurable effect. There is a suppression of hunger and an increase in metabolism which dissipates after several hours.

Duration of Intoxication: The effects of tobacco can be felt for several hours or shorter, depending on the level of addiction and the need to maintain a certain level of nicotine in the blood to avoid withdrawal.

Withdrawal: Withdrawal from tobacco is believed to more difficult than any other drug or alcohol. Someone who has developed at least a pack-a-day habit will feel nervous, fatigued, hungry, suffer headaches, severe irritability, poor concentration, sleep disturbances, and an intense nicotine craving for up to six months. The two most common reasons people keep smoking is because of fear of gaining weight when they quit and to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. Those fears often will lead to relapse among users who are trying to quit.

Effects of Long Term Use: Cardiovascular disease, poor circulation, respiratory impairment, cancer, and premature death. The dangerous side effects of tobacco are slow and take 20 to 40 years to surface, even after someone has stopped smoking. Smokers have more medical complications, and, are less able to participate in physical activities which affects their quality of life.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Addiction can develop quickly, or slowly depending on the reasons a person starts using tobacco. Although a first time user will experience nausea, headache, dizziness and coughing, continued use diminishes the bad effects of the experience as the body adapts to the chemicals in the tobacco. The addiction is both physical and psychological, due to the social acceptance of tobacco.

Associated Risks: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, OSHA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have found that second hand smoke does cause cancer and is responsible for asthma and bronchitis in the children of smokers. It is also estimated one non-smoker for every eight smokers will die from cardio vascular disease aggravated by second hand smoke.