So, Why Don’t We Talk About Chewing Tobacco? Part 2

So, all this stuff is in chewing tobacco and yet people still put it in their mouths. Why? And why can’t they easily stop?

Chew Cover copy

The first question I won’t even try to answer.  There are so many reasons a person might start to use chew.  I can, however, answer the second question; why can’t they stop using chewing tobacco?

Nicotine is highly addictive and it activates the brain circuitry that regulates feelings of pleasure, the so-called reward pathways. A key brain chemical involved in mediating the desire to consume drugs including nicotine is the neurotransmitter dopamine, and research has shown that nicotine increases the levels of dopamine in the reward circuits. Because of its chemical properties, nicotine also has been found to enhance its abuse potential. Chewing tobacco produces a rapid distribution of nicotine to the brain, with drug levels peaking within seconds of placing the tobacco in the mouth

The skin inside the mouth is very thin; the blood vessels are extremely close to the surface.  Nicotine is absorbed into the blood stream very quickly, much more quickly than through cigarette smoke.  The hit is HUGE and it’s right there. The spike is almost instantaneous raising your heart rate and your blood pressure.

Quoting Jane Imholte (yes, a girl) from the website Tobacco Control:

“Nicotine was not new to me, until my first dip. The buzz I got was stronger than one from any other substance I had tried at that point. My head spun, my heart raced, and an incredible surge swept through my body. Nauseous and dizzy, I had to sit down immediately.”

If you’ve chewed tobacco for a while your brain is accustomed to getting this constant fix.  After removing the chew the acute effects of nicotine dissipate in a few minutes, causing the tobacco user to continue dosing frequently throughout the day to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal.

You’ll notice the withdrawal symptoms, albeit quietly at first. There will be an almost un-noticeable anxiety building. As the nicotine depletes the more intense the anxiety gets. Other things might happen, too. There might be headaches, hot flashes and depression. A person might get dizzy.  It’s called “The Fog”, your head hurts and you can’t think straight. So, to stop all this unpleasantness, the chewer takes another dip, instant relief is achieved and the cycle continues. And one can of chew has as much nicotine as 2 packs of cigarettes!  .

As an aside, the lethal dosage of nicotine for a 150 pound adult is 60 mg if all the nicotine was absorbed at once.

 (source: Poisoning/Toxicology, Third Edition, Jay M. Arena, B.S., M.D.)

Just to get an idea about the amount of nicotine you get here’s a handy little chart comparing the nicotine delivered from smoking a cigarette, in moist snuff and chewing tobacco.


As if all this isn’t bad enough…there’s cancer, oral cancer to be more specific.

Cancers usually occur where the tobacco is held in the mouth. Surgery for cancer of the mouth may lead to removal of parts of your face, tongue, cheek, or lip. Search the web, there are plenty of images of tobacco chewers missing parts of their face.  I’m not going to gross you out here.

The precursor to this oral cancer comes in little, white, leathery patches in your mouth called Leukoplakia. They can occur when the juice from tobacco is held in one place and irritate your mouth (remember the sand and fiberglass?). The patches may be different in shape, size and appearance. The bottom line is; if you have these patches, go see a Doctor, pronto.

Ok. Just a bit more:

You can get gum disease.  Your gums recede; your teeth become loose and can bleed. Chewing can cause tooth decay. There’s a huge amount of sugar in smokeless tobacco and it mixes with the plaque on your teeth eating away at the enamel causing cavities and really bad breath!

I mentioned before how the nicotine speeds up the heart and increases blood pressure.  It also can create irregular heartbeats as well.  Since nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, less blood is getting to your brain resulting in slower reaction time and dizziness.*

So, what to do?  How can a dipper stop dipping? There will be withdrawals. Remember those headaches and “the Fog” there are also “dip dreams”.  Don’t despair. Anyone can stop the chewing tobacco habit in much the same way as a tobacco smoker stops smoking, with some minor adjustments.

The first thing to remember is to take it one minute at a time.  All you have to do is get through the next minute.  Focusing on the future and how many days you’ll be without chew is counterproductive. Focus on each success and build on that success. Nicotine leaves the body completely within about 72 hours.  In about 6 to 8 weeks the brain thinks about nicotine in the same way someone who never chewed does, in other words, not at all.

Everything we do, good or bad, has a positive intention behind it.  I know this sounds like a load of crap, but it’s true.  Everything we do, we do for a reason and that reason has a positive intention.  Just ask why a person smokes and they’ll tell you “it calms me down”,  “it helps me think”, “I feel more confident” all these “reasons” have a positive intention.  The chewing tobacco habit is the same way.

Using Hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we can determine the positive intent, the reason(s) why you chew.  Once we know the intent we can give you alternatives, different choices that are better than what you had been doing and are appropriate to address the positive intention without ever having another chew again.

I heard a choice piece of wisdom from one of my teachers once.  I went something like this:

“It’s never too late to stop walking down the wrong path.”

If you chew and want to stop, there is help, all you need to do is ask.

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