While the physical health effects of smoking are well known the psychological effects are rarely discussed.
In large part, the psychological effects of smoking are directly linked to how nicotine physically affects the brain. Early cigarette use can cause improvement in reaction because nicotine is a psychomotor stimulant. Even though this improved skill does not last long, smokers claim the enhancement from cigarettes.
Smokers also claim that cigarettes are mood enhancing or have a calming effect. There is research that shows smoking may indeed have a calming, rather than stimulating, effect depending on the amount of nicotine in the bloodstream.
It has also been shown that the impression of mood change can be due to short-term nicotine withdrawal. Such withdrawal can happen any time a smoker goes without cigarettes longer than they are used to, such as when they sleep. Withdrawal symptoms include craving for nicotine, anger and irritability, anxiety, depression, impatience, trouble sleeping, hunger, gain of weight, and difficulty concentration. Thus, the first cigarette of the day stops the withdrawal symptoms, causing the smoker to feel calmer.
The feelings of euphoria and calm with the perceptions of performance enhancement are at the root of psychological addiction to cigarettes. When a person tries to quit smoking, the physical addiction is usually overcome within fourteen days. However, the psychological desire for cigarettes can last for years.
This is because smokers often see cigarettes as a cure-all. When under stress, inhalation of nicotine can enable the smoker to feel calm. When tired, cigarettes can act as a stimulant to wake the smoker up. When a smoker was bored, they would light up a cigarette as well.
Because of the combined effect of these psychological factors, smokers who try to quit often find that even after they have overcome the physical addiction they still need help. Many people turn to acupuncture, hypnotherapy, or support groups for assistance in dealing with the psychological dependence on cigarettes.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in problems. Alcoholism is a long-term (chronic) disease. It’s not a weakness or a lack of willpower. It can be divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
Alcohol dependence is a disease that causes
- craving (a strong need to drink)
- loss of control (not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started)
- physical dependence (withdrawal symptoms)
- tolerance (the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect)
With alcohol abuse, the individual is not physically dependent but still has a serious problem. The drinking may cause problems at home or school. It may cause someone to put themselves in a dangerous situation, or lead to legal or social problems.
Alcohol can affect all parts of the body but particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. This can result in mental illness, irregular heartbeat, liver failure, and an increase in the risk of cancer. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicide, and suicide.
Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby. Generally, women are more sensitive to alcohol’s harmful physical and mental effects than men.
Both environmental factors and genetics are associated with alcoholism. A person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves. Environmental factors include social, cultural, and behavioral influences. Medically alcoholism is considered both a physical and mental illness.
Treatment may take several steps and includes medication and/or psychotherapy. Because of medical problems that can occur during withdrawal, alcohol detoxification should be carefully controlled. After detoxification group therapy or support groups are used to help keep a person from returning to drinking. One commonly used form of support is the group Alcoholics Anonimous.