The two sides of tobacco addiction (chemical and psychological)

the want to smoke typical of those trying to quit smoking have been labeled with a generic word: the “mono“However, the anxiety caused by not smoking cannot be reduced to something so simple. Among other things, because in tobacco addiction the chemical processes that regulate the functioning of our body and those that are of psychological and contextual origin play a role.: Habits, friendships, etc. Nicotine withdrawal syndrome. For this reason, tobacco addiction is a biopsychosocial phenomenon.

Think, for example, of the motivations of someone trying tobacco for the first time. Chances are, you won’t like the experience at all, and yet that won’t stop you from even deciding to spend the money on another packet of tobacco. During the first months, the chemical dependence on tobacco is not yet consolidated, but we could already start talking about a certain psychological need to smoke, Which can take several forms:

  • All of my friends are doing it.

  • I don’t like to wait without doing anything.

  • I use it to look interesting.

  • They always give me cigars and that finally piqued my curiosity.

Smoking: many factors at play

Of course, these motivations should not be directly accessible to consciousness and be formulated as explicitly as in these sentences. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Each year, tobacco companies invest a lot in marketing to create these invisible forces of attraction towards tobacco. These organizations seek to be governed by a loss-making logic and would not spend such a large amount of capital if the advertising did not work. The causes of tobacco addiction are in the body of the smoker, but also beyond.

This is important to keep in mind because these two aspects of addiction have a similar result (the uncontrollable urge to smoke a cigarette) but its causes are different in nature. In fact, the withdrawal syndrome caused by chemical factors goes away long before the urge to smoke with psychological roots.

Indeed, although the cells of the body have learned to readjust to the absence of nicotine, smoking habits and ideas related to the idea of ​​smoking (Created in part by the marketing teams of major tobacco companies) it takes years to start forgetting.

The importance of context

Someone who is pessimistic might think that the existence of a psychic side to withdrawal syndrome is bad news, judging by how long it lasts, but the truth is it’s quite the opposite. All chemical-related addictions also involve psychological factors that make it difficult to take off.But it is not the other way around, that is to say that addictions with social and contextual roots should not translate into dependence explained by biology.

This means that what worsens the depth of addiction in the case of tobacco is not psychological factor, Which is always present in case of addiction to a substance, but to the chemical product. It also means that by intervening in the psychological and behavioral area, it is easier to cope with chemical addiction to tobacco.

It is precisely for this reason that there is the cognitive behavioral therapy applied to cases where someone wants to quit smoking, or to other new methods and approaches of psychological intervention to end tobacco addiction, such as the one we have seen in this article). Intervention methods focused on psychological factors are very helpful in the afternoon in quitting smoking and can be associated with the use of patches or chewing gum which act on the acute effects of the withdrawal syndrome on a scale. cellular.

In other words, taking into account the typical contextual and cognitive factors in people suffering from tobacco addiction is of great help in quitting smoking. Believing that cigarette manufacturers know the psychological side of addiction to sell their product, it is right that the consumer can benefit as well of this same knowledge.

Bibliographical references:

  • Batra, A. (2011). Treatment of tobacco addiction. Deutsches Arzteblatt, available at

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