Quitting smokeless tobacco Timeline
For most of my adult life I have relied on a crutch to see me through my days. I finally got rid of that crutch when I threw out my can of Copenhagen. As much as I thought I was tough, healthy and hardcore, I never considered, or accepted the fact that I was also a substance abuser. Looking back at all the stops and starts to this addiction, I don't know how I allowed myself to put such restraints on my progress.
Like many other people my age, I made the decision many years ago to use tobacco. The funny thing is, I never smoked a cigarette a day in my life, although I have and still do smoke a cigar on rare occasions. I chose smokeless tobacco because it was thought to be less harmful than cigarettes. Additionally, former athletes advertised smokeless tobacco as being something that was relaxing and manly. And America's pastime is filled with players who use the product.
I have been using smokeless tobacco on and off for years. I thought I "quit" numerous times but I now realize that wasn't really the case. You can say that I merely stopped using for periods of time. The difference now is that I finally quit, meaning that I am done and will not start again. I'm well over the hump. The mental resolve is here now, and I cannot conceive a need to ever rejoin the substance abusers based on my reason to quit.
People cite many reasons for quitting and I also believe you need a strong reason to quit. My primary reason is perceived damage to my thyroid and throat. My thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are slowly rising and my voice has been raspy for too long. After investigating the possible reasons and solutions, I concluded that I had been dipping too much and for too long. I realize that some damage was probably done and I hope and work at recovery at this point. This may be an inaccurate perception, but it is my primary reason.
So, why do I write this article for a bodybuilding site? Pretty simple, chewing tobacco is part of many athletes and peak performers lives. Athletes - baseball is kind of obvious, but I have known many wrestlers, powerlifters and bodybuilders who used snuff, intentionally or unintentionally, as part of their weight control programs. I've also read that many football players and golfers are now users of smokeless tobacco.
Peak performers - ask anyone who served in the military how many folks they saw using tobacco products to extend the number of hours they were able to perform their assignments. So, yes, I feel it is appropriate to address the issue here and hopefully change one person's mind into becoming a quitter, or better yet, a lifetime non-user.
Not starting is particularly true for the teenagers and college kids out there that experience tremendous peer pressure to use the product. Let me give you some essential information.
Tobacco Use & Consequences
Smokeless tobacco use is back on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission's 2003 Report on smokeless tobacco states that, for the past three years of data (1999-2001), sales of smokeless tobacco (in pounds) has increased compared to a declining trend from 1991 to 1999. It is also estimated that 1 million teenagers will try smokeless tobacco this year. Advertising and product give aways at college campuses is a common method of recruiting new, young users.
Nicotine is the main ingredient of concern in smokeless tobacco. It is estimated that a normal, 30-minute dip of smokeless tobacco delivers the same amount of nicotine as 3-4 cigarettes. Nicotine affects the brain and central nervous system and changes neurotransmitters levels regulating mood, learning, alertness, and ability to concentrate.
Nicotine can also increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels and reduce circulation. Nicotine can act like a stimulant or a sedative, and causes the release of endorphins, which provide a tranquilizing effect. Finally, nicotine is considered more addictive than crack or alcohol.
If nicotine wasn't bad enough, there is a cocktail of other harmful chemicals associated with smokeless tobacco including: polonium 210 (nuclear waste), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), and arsenic. According to the American Cancer Society, chewing tobacco users are 50 times more likely than non-users to get cancers of the cheek, gums, and inner surface of the lips.
Quitting is a real, legitimate challenge. Considering the fact that I often work unusual hours I felt I needed the stimulant in my system to stay alert and awake. I was comfortable with the buzz and alertness response to nicotine particularly when pulling all-nighters. But I made my commitment to quit and was prepared for the consequences that included withdrawal and detoxification. I expected some of the common, significant withdrawal symptoms:
Common Withdrawal Symptoms:
Headache- Some noted, but not significant when I quit
Tiredness- A condition I noted due to lack of stimulant. I would say I adapted after the toxins were removed from my body, roughly three weeks in duration.
Depression- None noted.
Feelings Of Irritability, Frustration & Anger- Irritability was a major issue for roughly three weeks. I wasn't fun to live with at home or at work.
Trouble Sleeping & Restlessness- I didn't notice any of these symptoms
Difficulty Concentrating- I did notice some diminished mental capabilities during detoxification. And no, it is not because I'm getting older.
Increased Appetite- You bet. A definite issue that was difficult to deal with.
How I Quit
Having a reason to quit appears essential in any program that addresses addiction. I had my blood test results and they forced me into some serious thinking. I did the research and the only conclusion I had was to take better care of my throat area. To me, the root cause of my problems was many years of snuff use.
Solution to the problem - throw away the Copenhagen. And just like that, I finally got a significant reason to finally quit dipping. The economics of the habit was never enough. Other health risks, including cancer, were not enough to end the habit. The relationship with my loved ones never did it. But now, I had my reason.