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Tobacco addiction.

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From: "jim mcdonald" multiflorum.hotmail.com>
To: herb.lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [herb] Something for Anxiety/Panic
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2003 07:49:03 -0500

> I sort of get panic attacks, and just feelings of anxiety, which (yes I have talked with a doctor but do not want to take antidepressants cause I don't think I am depressed)

The most powerful anti anxiety medicine on the planet is Tobacco... but that's probably not what you need, so please don't start smoking, and if you do, keep trying to quit till you do.
(the anxiety thread is continued here.)


From: "jim mcdonald" multiflorum.hotmail.com

>Is tobacco really an anti-anxiety medicine, or is that because of the addiction and withdrawal symptoms? Some smokers tell me cigarettes help them relax, but I attribute that to helping relieve their withdrawal symptoms.

Okay, let me preface this as ~pure heresy~, which I'm sure will rile some people up.

I don't accept "Tobacco addiction" as a physiological process to be legitimate. While people can go on and on about the biochemistry of nicotine addiction, if it was as simple as that, people could chew nicotine gum or use patches and that would be that. I've known so many people who stopped smoking and had no withdrawl symptoms, and that also undercuts the idea of a chemical basis.

Beyond that, the physiological withdrawl syptoms associated with stopping smoking are identical to those that accompany other means of dsitracting one's self from anxiety. As an example, go out into suburbia during a power outage and watch how your average american family copes with no access to TV. Deprived of their ability to "tune out", all of the anxieties they try to ignore by using television as "zombification therapy" remanifest, with all the same sort of physiological "symptoms": nervousness, anxiety, rise in blood pressure, rapid shallow breathing, obsession over when the TV will work again...

Simply, if you remove the method that a person uses to cope with their anxiety (whatever it is), that anxiety will remanifest. People smoke because it relieves nervous anxiety, and from there it can become a nervous habit, gets integrated into their lifestyle, and often their self identification, and becomes a very hard ~habit~ to break.

If you want to help someone quit smoking, there are a few things that need to happen. First and foremost, the person has to want to not smoke. This is very different than knowing they need to stop, or even wanting to quit. Very many people ~enjoy~ smoking, even though they "know they shouldn't". If this is the case, the person's chances are slim at best, because they really don't ~want~ to quit... they just think they should. If the person, on the other hand, finds themselves feeling that, "you know what, I'm sick of coughing, getting bronchitis, running out of breath, people scoul when they smell my breath, my whole body reeks like an ashtray... this just makes me fell shitty & I'm sick of it, I just don't want to do this anymore," then they have pretty good chances of quitting, beacsue they've got a good foundation to start from.

I often tell people that if they choose to smoke, do it purposefully, because they want to, not because they're anxious or nervous, or out of habit. In the Native american tradition, the proper use of tobacco is for prayer; the prayers of the people smoking are carried to the great spirit in the smoke. You smoke to consider an issue or situtation, to pray on it, to ask for guidance or perspective. This is how I smoke, and smoking outside of such a context isn't even a thought to me. I've seen people go from being "smokers" to people who "use Tobacco", and in most instances, their smoking related health problems clear up, even though they still occasionally smoke. They often report that smoking ceremonially is nothing like having a cigarette. It isn't, anymore than consuming alcohol in a tincture is like "drinking".

The ~purpose~ is different, the ~intent~ is different, and intention affects the way things affect you. If you guzzle down a mug of coffee to get you through the day, it will affect you differently than if you sip on the coffee, and savor its flavor and aroma... if you chow down on a healthy dinner, swallowing gulp after gulp, it may cause more digestive distress than if you eat a "meat and potatoes" dinner, but eat slowly and chew everything really well. The way we do things affects how doing them affect us. This concept applies to smoking as well.

And don't get me wrong, I think smoking as a habit is ~absolutely vile~, self destructive and disrespectful to Tobacco. It's interesting, in fact, that we refer to "abusing Tobacco"... that's really what we're doing: abusing it. Tobacco is a gift from the Creator to help us. Like all sacraments, western culture has ripped it out of its context and made a vice out of it. Probably every botanical vice used by modern society was a sacrament in its indigenous context.

If we abuse it, the only way that Tobacco can let us know is by making us feel bad. That's how it tries to tell us, "lay off". It figures we should understand this, and in reality WE DO. We just don't listen. We ignore the coughing, we ignore the bad smell & the foul taste. WE ignore knowing that we feel worse after smoking... Kind of like when we're in a relationship that we know isn't working, but we stay in it. We know its not good, our friends tell us its not good, but we can't give it up because "what would we do without it?" So we continue with it, and use the relationship itself to try not to think about it. We don't step back to get perspective, we step in to narrow our veiw of it, to not see the ways it isn't serving us. The same dynamic is at play with Tobacco abuse, or, really, any other form of self abuse we engage in. Really, who believes the people who sue tobacco companies and say "they didn't know Tobacco was bad for them?" That's clear cut denial.

When we believe that Tobacco addiction is a physiological ineveitability, because nicotine is "so addictive", we disempower ourselves. We create a belief system that makes it harder to quit by re-enforcing and building up the difficulty of doing so. After all, if its all chemical, its beyond our power, we have no control. Its like gravity, or inertia. But if we accept our responsibilty for our habit, we give ourselve the power to break it.

Lord, this is probably far too big a topic to get into here... I'll leave it at that. If anyone is left feeling litagacious, please read the beginning over, where I acknowledged the heretical nature of not believing in nicotie addiction.

>Could tobacco help somebody not accustomed to tobacco to relax?

Yes, but I wouldn't use it to do so... My belief is that the proper use of Tobacco is in Ceremony, in prayer, and use outside of this context is dangerous... playing with fire, so to speak.


From: Art Sackett asackett.artsackett.com

> I don't accept "Tobacco addiction" as a physiological process to be legitimate.

Are you suggesting that the only compound within tobacco to which the human body reacts is nicotine? Wouldn't that run counter to the generally accepted (here) premise that when considering things herbal there is most often a synergy, rather than a single "active ingredient"?


From: "jim mcdonald" multiflorum.hotmail.com

>Are you suggesting that the only compound within tobacco to which the human body reacts is nicotine?

No, I'm saying that Tobacco is ~not~ physiologically addictive. Its a powerful antianxiety herb and people abuse it because they're anxious, and don't want to quit because then they'd have to deal with their anxiety.


From: Henriette Kress hetta.spamcop.net

> No, I'm saying that Tobacco is ~not~ physiologically addictive.

Except, then you have the tobacco companies, adding in addictive substances... one of them has 'fessed up, the rest are probably doing it as well.

For "clean" tobacco, do American Spirit or Nat Sherman.


From: Art Sackett asackett.artsackett.com

> No, I'm saying that Tobacco is ~not~ physiologically addictive.

So then how do I reconcile your statement "... if it was as simple as that, people could chew nicotine gum or use patches and that would be that"??? I thought your whole argument was based upon it, falls flat without it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm good with anecdotal evidence, with the rejection of "modern medical science", and with the acceptance of actions that are beyond current scientific explanation. But I want to understand HOW it can be that the bulk of human society is suffering from some common delusion that predates suburban angst.

> Its a powerful antianxiety herb and people abuse it because they're anxious, and don't want to quit because then they'd have to deal with their anxiety.

My personal experience, as I perceived it, was quite different. I'm not and have never been an anxious person, but was addicted to cigarettes for about a quarter century. I'm far from being otherwise perfect, but anxious is something I've very rarely ever been, and never chronically so.


From: Sara Reller sarar.insani-x.com

I think that one thing that you over looked is the boredom and peer pressure factors. I know plenty of people who smoke cause they can't think of anything better to do. But the other thing that fits very well with the anti-anxiety thing is the peer pressure. There are many jobs where 'smoke breaks' are allowed but you can't just take 5 minutes and run outside to do anything you want (yep they are still out there I worked one at a restaurant and my sister works one at a nursing home) and so that's not so much peer pressure but falls nicely into that category. I do feel that people who do it want to do it. But these also are reason's that people want to do it. Just want to make sure you take these into account in your theory (which I by the way think is great).


From: HerbalSW.aol.com

I work in the addictions field and those who stop smoking cigarettes (not pure tobacco) have a harder time with withdrawal symptoms and relapse prevention than those attempting to stop cocaine or heroin

Catherine M. Wood, LCSW, CADC, ADS


From: "jim mcdonald" multiflorum.hotmail.com

>So then how do I reconcile your statement "... if it was as simple as that, people could chew nicotine gum or use patches and that would be that"??? I thought your whole argument was based upon it, falls flat without it.

First, I don't have an argument, and have always taken exception to the western academic notion of presenting an argument, offering evidence to back it up, then concluding that because of the solidity with which you argued, others should believe you're right... I'd rather have lots of different, individualized, conflicting and contradictory veiwpoints, and have everyone be okay with that. In fact, in college I once wrote a paper on that, and got ZERO points for my effort. Evidentaly, challeging academic structure within an academic structure isn't libel to earn you points for creative thinking. Oh well...

Anyways, offering something relevent, I'm having a hard time seeing where, in that sentence, it could be construed that I'm saying that the effects of nicotine are to be understood representing the effects of Tobacco. Perhaps I'm not getting what you're saying, you're not getting what I'm saying, or both. Not really knowing what's the case, I'd say ignore that sentence and read the rest of the post.

Its kind of a ramble and not meant to build from one point together in an academic matter (hence, it doesn't "fall flat", though, as I mentioned, its certainly heretical, isn't it?). Its also not meant to be understood as the reason why ALL people smoke... I'd never say, or mean to imply, that there's any reason all people do anything. The post was actually in response to someone asking, "does Tobacco relieve anxiety?" The answer to that is absolutely yes, and that's why ~many~ people smoke.

More than anything, though, its a challenge to stretch one's perceptions beyond what are common assumptions about nicotine addiction, or, really, addiction in general. What anyone concludes after stretching those assumptions is up to them and their experience. Mine has shown that a lot of people use Tobacco to relieve anxiety. As another person mentioned, peer pressure and boredom also influence a persons descision to smoke.

>Don't get me wrong, I'm good with anecdotal evidence, with the rejection of "modern medical science", and with the acceptance of actions that are beyond current scientific explanation. But I want to understand HOW it can be that the bulk of human society is suffering from some common delusion that predates suburban angst.

That, I really don't know, and also wonder all the time. I've often considered that people find it easier to deal with short term solutions to problems (smoking, here and now, because I want a cigarette, dammit... I'll feel relieved when I have one) than it is to deal with long term solutions to problems (dammit, I'm coughing and wheezing all the time... I got to stop smoking... but I want a cigarette, dammit!). This is at least what I've seen very clearly in lots of people who smoke. Perhaps your assessment of suburban angst clarifies things a bit as well... Tobacco not only relieves anxiety, it will effectively lower angst down a few notches as well. And frustration.

The problem with Tobacco is that its VERY POWERFUL, and very powerful herbs are not meant to be used often and indiscriminately. The more you smoke, the less effectively it reduces anxiety/angst/frustration/tension, and the shorter the duration of this effect, till it really doesn't work at all. But the mind remembers what it DID, how it helped before (or how we enjoyed it), and subconsciously we repeat the action in an attempt to recreate the experience that initially connected us to the plant. This is a pretty common behavior in humans, and the ways it can manifest are myriad. Smoking is one of them. Another, perhaps, is gambling, another "addiction" that follows pretty much the same pattern, but doesn't have an alkaloid (gambaline?) to blame.

> Its a powerful antianxiety herb and people abuse it because they're anxious, and don't want to quit because then they'd have to deal with their anxiety.

>My personal experience, as I perceived it, was quite different.

Again, as stated above, I've not meant to imply all inclusiveness, just offering some ideas to think about. Most people, anyways, think I'm nuts about this one, including a number of people whose opinions I highly value. That's OK... I believe in Faeries, too, and have been known to turn my shirt inside out if I think I'm being pixie-led (that works, by the way...). I really wouldn't even say I'm right. But since developing this idea, I've learned a LOT about addiction, behavior, and dependence. It works for me.



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