Author: Pam Anderson, Secretary of TAC Board of Directors, CABC, ACBC
What is nicotine addiction?
Tobacco is one of the most widely abused substances in the world, and nicotine is one of the most difficult substances to quit once addicted. Nicotine is the main addictive chemical in tobacco. This addiction causes more deaths than any other addictions, and there are approximately fifty million people in the U.S. who are addicted to nicotine with over six million deaths per year. It is the most common addiction in the U.S., and also the most preventable cause of death in the U.S.
According to Healthline,
“Nicotine is the most addictive chemical in tobacco and causes a rush of adrenaline when absorbed into the bloodstream or inhaled via cigarette smoke. It also triggers an increase in dopamine that stimulates an area of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. A similar effect occurs when people take heroin or cocaine, and the drug user experiences a pleasurable sensation. Like any other drug, use of tobacco or nicotine over time can cause a physical and psychological addiction. Physically, the habitual user of nicotine comes to crave the chemical effect, meaning users consciously desire nicotine’s effects. Nicotine addiction is also behavioral in that people can become dependent on actions involved with using tobacco.
Nicotine is primarily consumed by inhaling the smoke of tobacco cigarettes. Other ways to smoke tobacco include pipes and cigars. Smokeless tobacco is inhaled through the nose as a powder or held in the mouth. Vaping is inhaling of a vapor created by an electronic cigarette or other vaping device. It is a cartridge filled with a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. The liquid is heated into a vapor which the person inhales. The aim is to provide a sensation of inhaling tobacco smoke without the smoke. This is less harmful but still not safe.”
God’s Word tells us that our bodies are the temple of God, and we belong to Him if Jesus Christ has died on the cross for our sins. (I Corinthians 6:19-20.) We have our identity in Him (Ephesians 1: 3-14) and have a purpose to fulfill in our lives (I Corinthians 10:31) which is to bring Him glory with our bodies.
For many people, smoking is a normal part of their lives but has become an addiction. According to Mark Shaw in his book “The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective”, smoking is a worship disorder and an idol in their lives. According to this book, “Worship is reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power, and any thought, word, or act is worship.”
I Corinthians 10:31 states “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. Idolatry is defined as “the worship of a physical object as a god or immoderate attachment or devotion to something”. It is “immoderate” meaning it leads to extreme thinking or behaving. It is an “attachment” to a “physical object” for the purpose of “worship”. For the Christian, it is a sin to worship a physical object, or to worship self. Christians are designed by their Creator to worship Him. All human beings worship something such as a physical object (cigarette), a false religion’s god, or the true God: the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The word “idolatry” can be applied to any pleasure that becomes so excessively desired that it replaces the desire to worship God. This may include drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, sleep, television, internet, exercise, sports, etc. Cigarette smoking can be placed in this category. II Timothy 3:4 identifies persons who desire an idolatrous pleasure more than they desire to honor God as “…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. It is a habitual sin that is so automatic that it appears to be compulsive. There is a physical component to any substance addiction, including nicotine. Detoxification from nicotine is not enough. Habits must be replaced, poor habits for good habits. A cigarette smoker can’t just “break the habit” after “detoxing” from the physical dependence of nicotine. A person must replace smoking cigarettes with something constructive. In the Bible, this is called “putting off” and “putting on”. (Galatians 5:19-24) We are to put off the works of the flesh and put on the works of the Spirit.
So, if we are believers in Jesus Christ, we are new creatures in Him, and old ways or habits are gone. (II Corinthians 5:17-18) The Holy Spirit living inside of us can give us victory over any addiction if we put our faith and trust in Him. (I Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13)
Stages of Addiction
According to Healthline, a person can get addicted to cigarettes in two weeks. The most common ages for addiction to cigarette smoking is ages 25-34. If a person decides to quit smoking quickly, he/she can have withdrawal symptoms that peak in 2-3 days. Withdrawal symptoms may include cravings, a sense of emptiness, depression, moodiness, irritability, and difficulty focusing or paying attention. The American Heart Association says that nicotine consumed from smoking tobacco is one of the hardest substances to quit. It is considered to be as hard as quitting heroin. It takes three months for the brain chemistry to return to normal after ceasing to smoke cigarettes.
However, as stated before, if we have God’s Spirit living inside of us, there is nothing too hard for the Lord. (Luke 1:37) At the core of nicotine/tobacco addiction is a heart issue, and the heart is the spiritual, innermost part of a human being. It is defined as the soul or mind, and is the fountain seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors. So, in order to get victory over a nicotine addiction, the heart, or innermost being, must be changed by the Word of God, and the changed person will have new desires, thoughts, and purposes to live for God and bring glory to Him through maintaining a clean temple. ( I Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Addiction Connection offers hope and healing to those struggling with addiction to nicotine. Here is a list of biblical programs we support and can confidently recommend to you, in addition to our list of Commissioned Addictions Biblical Counselors available to help you.
Residential Programs we recommend.
Non-residential Programs we recommend.
Are you a leader wanting to help addicts? Check out this disciple-making curriculum we created just for you entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.