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The two faces of tobacco dependence (chemical and psychological)

The two faces of tobacco dependence (chemical and psychological)

September 12, 2022

The desire to smoke Typical of those who are trying to quit have been labeled with a generic word: "monkey "However, the anxiety caused by the absence of tobacco can not be reduced to something so simple, among other things, because in the addiction to tobacco both the chemical processes that regulate the functioning of our body and those that are psychological and contextual root play a role : habits, friendships, etc. The nicotinic withdrawal syndrome. For this reason, tobacco dependence is a biopsychosocial phenomenon.

Think, for example, of the motivations from someone who tries tobacco for the first time. It is very likely that the experience does not like it at all, and yet that will not stop him from deciding to even spend money on another pack of cigarettes. During the first puffs the chemical addiction to tobacco has not yet been consolidated, but we could start talking about a certain psychological need to smoke , which can take several forms:


  • All my friends do it.
  • I do not like to be waiting with nothing to do.
  • I use it to look interesting.
  • They always offer me cigars and it has ended up awakening my curiosity.

Many factors at play

Of course, these motivations need not be directly accessible by consciousness and be formulated as explicitly as in these sentences. However, that does not mean that they do not exist. Every year, tobacco companies devote a lot of marketing efforts to create these invisible attractive forces towards tobacco. These organizations pretend to be governed by a logic of profit and loss, and would not spend such large amounts of capital if advertising did not work. The causes of tobacco dependence exist in the body of the smoker, but also beyond this.


It is important to keep this in mind because these two aspects of addiction have a similar result (the irrepressible desire to smoke a cigarette) but its causes are of different nature . In fact, the withdrawal syndrome caused by chemical factors disappears much earlier than the desire to smoke with a psychological root.

This is because, although the cells of the body have learned to readjust to the absence of nicotine, the habits associated with smoking and the ideas related to the idea of ​​smoking (created in part by the marketing teams of the big tobacco companies) it takes years to start forgetting .

The importance of context

Someone pessimistic could believe that the existence of a psychic side of the withdrawal syndrome is bad news, judging by how long it lasts, but the truth is that it is the opposite. All addictions with chemical causes also bring psychological factors that make it difficult to disengage , but this does not happen in reverse, that is, social and contextual root addictions do not have to be translated into addiction explained by biology.


This means that what aggravates the extent of addiction in the case of tobacco is not the psychological factor , which is always present in cases of dependence on a substance, but the chemical. It also means that intervening in the psychological and behavioral field is easier to overcome the chemical addiction to snuff.

Precisely for that reason there is the cognitive-behavioral therapy applied to cases in which someone wants to quit smoking, or other new methods and approaches to psychological intervention to end tobacco dependence, as we saw in this article). Methods of intervention focused on psychological factors help a lot in the afternoon of giving up tobacco, and can be combined with the use of patches or chewing gum that act on the acute effects of the abstinence syndrome at the cellular level.

In other words, taking into account the typical contextual and cognitive factors in people who suffer from tobacco dependence is a great help when quitting smoking. Being that cigar manufacturers know the psychological side of addiction to sell their product, it is fair that the consumer can also take advantage of this same knowledge.

Bibliographic references:

  • Batra, A. (2011). Treatment of Tobacco Dependence. Deutsches Arzteblatt, consulted at //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3167938/

What Happens When You Stop Smoking? (September 2022).


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