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posted by Dopefish on Monday February 24 2014, @09:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the bender-might-be-less-cranky-if-he-ditched-cigars dept.

lhsi writes "A recent publication on the British Medical Journal finds that stopping smoking improves mental health: "Change in mental health after smoking cessation: systematic review and meta-analysis" (CC BY-NC 3.0).

A lot of smokers claim that smoking has mental health benefits; reducing depression and anxiety, and for relaxation and relieving stress. However the study suggests this is likely mis-attributing the ability of cigarettes to abolish nicotine withdrawal as a beneficial effect on mental health. The study notes that some health professionals are reluctant to recommend stopping smoking as a way to help mental health problems due to the fear that it might make things worse, but this study suggests that it actually would help.

The main conclusion of the study:

Smoking cessation is associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and stress and improved positive mood and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke. The effect size seems as large for those with psychiatric disorders as those without. The effect sizes are equal or larger than those of antidepressant treatment for mood and anxiety disorders."

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by MrNemesis on Monday February 24 2014, @04:07PM

    by MrNemesis (1582) on Monday February 24 2014, @04:07PM (#5913)

    As someone who's smoked since I was 14, and currently about a year into Yet Another Quitting Attempt, I can't really say I agree with all of the above. Smoking itself is laden with 'orribleness but nicotine itself, if you ignore the rather fiendish addictive properties and the fact that it's about as lethal per milligram as cyanide, actually seems to be one of the more benign drugs. The wiki page is a good place to start reading: []

    Most medical literature I've read on the subject says that nicotine has been shown to improve mood (it's indirectly a dopamine re-uptake inhibitor and as such gives it the fantastically addictive reward scheme), alertness and concentration which is why so many smokers like myself are prepared to go through the pains of smoking to get at the nicotine. Obviously as an individual user I'm incapable of justifying whether any given effect is attributable to taking or not taking the drug, but unsurprisingly there's been a lot of study done on the subject (some undoubtedly by tobacco companies so make of that what thou wilt) and the general concensus seems to be that nicotine does has some advantageous side effects.

    The biggest problem with nicotine in my opinion is that its delivery system has classically been as an arsinous monoxide nicotinal preparation taken bronchially as an infumation which has the nasty side-effect of filling your body up with shite. Switching to a combination of patches (to minimise the long-term effects of withdrawal and give a pleasant baseload) and e-cigs (to satisfy the brief craving periods of the body going "I'm psychologically conditioned to want you to put a tube in your mouth and it give me nicotine NOW!") has gotten me much, much further than any other quitting method; I'm no longer a smoker per se but I'd still consider myself a nicotine addict and based on past experience I don't see that changing. It works out well for me because consuming caffeine (something most people like to do to boost alertness and concentration) brings me out in symptoms not unlike nicotine withdrawal - a marked reduction in my ability to concentrate and cold sweats feeling like you're being swarmed over by ants. So I appear to have made nicotine my socially acceptable drug o' choice, but I'm quite happy to have stopped inhaling all the crap in the process.

    As an aside, in the UK at least we're seeing an odd side-effect of the introduction of e-cigs; they're helping lots of smokers to kick the fags, but also thousands of non-smokers are buying them to get the nicotine without the smoking part. Some people have even asked to "borrow" a nicotine patch from me if they're going to need to maintain a higher level of concentration for the day.

    My 2 pence.

    "To paraphrase Nietzsche, I have looked into the abyss and been sick in it."
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  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday February 24 2014, @09:14PM

    by mcgrew (701) <> on Monday February 24 2014, @09:14PM (#6187) Homepage Journal

    I'm no longer a smoker per se but I'd still consider myself a nicotine addict and based on past experience I don't see that changing.

    Niccotine is like any other addictive drug -- once you're an addict, you're an addict for life. That's why you never hear of a "cured" alcoholic or heroin addict, only a "recovering" addict.

    The longer you go without a cigarette, the less you'll want one. But smoke one single cigarette and you'll be back to a pack a day in less than a week.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by dmc on Tuesday February 25 2014, @12:30AM

      by dmc (188) on Tuesday February 25 2014, @12:30AM (#6302)

      Niccotine is like any other addictive drug -- once you're an addict, you're an addict for life. That's why you never hear of a "cured" alcoholic or heroin addict, only a "recovering" addict.

      The longer you go without a cigarette, the less you'll want one. But smoke one single cigarette and you'll be back to a pack a day in less than a week.

      I was all set to burn though my 10 mod points on this thread, but now I have to respond to this instead. You hear your argument a lot. And while I really, really don't want to discount the seriousness of what you say, I have to object that you've taken your generalization too far to the extreme.

      I've had "addiction-like"(if not outright addiction) issues with- tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, gambling, alcohol, sugared soda, porn, coffee, internet debates, video games, shoplifting, and various political activism.

      Limiting my initial commentary to tobacco- I 'experimented' with it around the age of 13 or 14 (shoplifting rather enabled it). I let myself get up to the point of half a pack a day, at which point I quit because I was (i'd like to think) a fairly intelligent kid, and knew precisely the kind of bad choice I was messing around with. I 'quit' when I hit that half-a-pack-a-day level and noticed a kind of withdrawel symptoms that I knew were evidence that I was smart to 'quit' before it got worse. Now, that said, I am the bizarre outlier kind of person who can smoke a few cigarretes per year with no real issue. Now, being completely honest, I'll say that my 'quitting' of gambling and cocaine about 10 years ago was much more serious. It definitely got me over the 1st of the 12 steps. I accepted my life as being in the hands of a higher power, and that if I didn't accept that, I was on a one-way trip to absolutely completely ruining my life. But even that said, I'm also somehow the kind of spiritual kurmudgeon, that has been able to do about the same thing with gambling that I did with cigarretes. Probably 5 times in the last 10 years I've lost under $100 in gambling, and still regularly engage in weekly $5 'penny poker' style gambling.

      Anyway, despite all that, I also allow myself to be a habitual cannabis consumer 11 months of the year. Currently I'm on my 3rd annual quasi-lent february free of alcohol and cannabis. But maybe I'm just juggling addictions as I'm playing non-gambling online poker in the background of typing this message, and I make myself 4-5 lattes a day as well as 2 liters of Dr. Pepper club-soda diluted by a factor of 3.

      Who knows, maybe you are right, and in march when I start drinking vodka again I'll run my life into the ground. But I don't think you are right, I think reality is a lot less black and white than you made it out to be. And I think unhealthy food is even more serious a problem for many than all the things I just described.

      Though as a final note, I will say that I've witnessed many dear, dear friends struggle with addiction to tobacco in a way that rings truer with what you said than my own experiences. I am 100% outlier and freak. No doubt. Now, I'll add that despite my willingness to dabble with all those other quite enjoyable (but dangerously tempting to exceed moderation) habits, I have thus far held my line of never sticking a needle in my arm, and still would consider it insanely stupid of myself to start smoking half a pack of cigarretes a day. Of course I have no temptation to do the latter, because I've found so many other more enjoyable, healthier, and less expensive habits to choose from.


      • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:46PM

        by mcgrew (701) <> on Tuesday February 25 2014, @02:46PM (#6628) Homepage Journal

        You may be an outlier, but not much of one since you did experience withdrawal symptoms. But you were no more addicted than someone waking up with a hangover is necessarily an alcoholic -- part of what a hangover is is withdrawal from alcohol.

        Like most people have no problem drinking without becoming an alcoholic, you seem to be that way with cigarettes.

        Addictive substances have physical withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from alcohol or heroin can be fatal.

        One needs to understand the difference between addiction and habituation. There is no such thing as "gambling addiction". That's habituation, and habituation can be more powerful than physical addiction. I found that at least in my case, the habituation to cigarettes was far stronger than the addiction. Of course, I'd smoked daily for three decades.

        I quit by using the patches, so I was still getting my dose of drug -- there were only withdrawal symptoms when I cut the dose down. But I still constantly wanted a cigarette, even though I was getting the drug.

        One can get habituated to anything. Like I mentioned in The Paxil Diaries, if there's an albatross hanging around your neck for 27 years and one day it disappears, you'll miss the albatross. If you have a glass of orange juice every morning before you drink your coffee for five years and all of a sudden can no longer get orange juice, you are going to suffer from your "orange juice addiction". Of course, this is even stronger when the pleasure centers of your brain are stimulated more than orange juice is capable of.

        Likewise, if you start smoking pot when you're thirteen and smoke daily until you're 23, you're going to have a hard time stopping, even though there is no physical addiction (same as gambling).

        I'm a long time reeferhead, started in 1971 when I was 19. Sometimes it's dry, at times I've been broke and couldn't afford it. But when I smoked cigarettes if I was out of money and had a choice between a cig and a joint, I would have chosen the cig every time. And come to think of it, if I could only have coffee tomorrow morning if I went without pot tonight, I'd go without pot. I'm worthless without my coffee, I'm hopelessly addicted to caffiene.

        • (Score: 2) by dmc on Wednesday February 26 2014, @02:57AM

          by dmc (188) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @02:57AM (#7084)

          There is no such thing as "gambling addiction".

          Different people use words differently. I'm pretty sure that statement is highly debatable. I recall various science reports of chemical effects of gambling on the brain. I don't believe it requires chemical ingestion to stimulate chemical processes in the brain.

          Some people _define_ addiction as something which you would be willing to sell your firstborn child for to not go without. Those people are zealots and do more harm IMO to the discussion than benefit. Life is not that black and white. There are levels of addiction, and levels of habituation, and levels of psychological and physiological withdrawel symtoms.

          You are free to discuss the issue as you wish (as am I). I just think you are innapropriately turning it into a black/white issue with statements such as "Niccotine is like any other addictive drug -- once you're an addict, you're an addict for life.". What is your scientific test that you can perform on a person to determine if they are an addict? And this- "But smoke one single cigarette and you'll be back to a pack a day in less than a week.". I guess you are defining your scientific addiction test as this latter, but must the subject have a firstborn and an island where the price of that carton of cigarretes is their firstborn to make your determination? Or do you have an alternate blood test available? MRI brainscan? I'm just saying the world involves a lot more shades of gray than I think you give it credit for. And when you speak about addiction in such black and white terms, I think many people who have legitimate issues they may be trying to self-educate about will tune out anything else educational you have to say.


          • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Wednesday February 26 2014, @02:46PM

            by mcgrew (701) <> on Wednesday February 26 2014, @02:46PM (#7302) Homepage Journal

            Different people use words differently.

            Indeed, and they've been bending the word "addiction" for quite some time, even in medical circles. That's a bad thing IMO, as addiction is physical and habituation is mental (or was, the distinction isn't really being looked at closely any more). I see that Wikipedia makes the distinction with only the nomenclature changed; now, habituation is called addiction and addiction is called "Physiological dependence".

            As to "once an addict, always an addict" there are usually exceptions to any rule, but those in the field of addiction will all tell you that. They do have tests to determine whether or not one is an addict. I'm not in the field, but I do know those who are.