How Quitting Chewing Tobacco is Different than Quitting Smoking
Motivations for Writing this Article
In the past I’ve written articles concerning breaking tobacco addiction, and I feel solidarity in such an endeavor is important, but while so many of you have reached out to me and shared your struggles with addiction, not one of you commenting have shared my specific brand of addiction: chewing tobacco.
In my opinion quitting dipping is much harder than quitting smoking. Not that it’s a competition. I don’t want you to think I’m writing this article to brag about my addiction being harder to kick than yours. I’m writing this article because there is so little information out there specifically regarding quitting dipping.
It seems it’s always lumped together with quitting smoking, and though this is helpful in some regards, the addictions are different enough that there needs to be some information out there specific to each.
I’m writing this article to both educate people about the differences between the addictions and provide a place for dippers to come and get accurate information about what quitting might be like for them.
Why Chewing Tobacco is a Stronger Addiction than Smoking
First off, I would like to ask the question, Why do you think only former smokers have responded to my articles regarding tobacco addiction?One part of the answer is really obvious: there are way more smokers in the world than dippers, but that said, wouldn’t one figure at least one former dipper would have commented on my articles?
The other part of the answer, I hypothesize, is that there are simply so few dippers that are able to quit. With smoking a small percentage of people succeed at kicking the happy. With dipping almost nobody succeeds.
And I’m not just garnering this opinion from the response to my articles, either. I live in Oklahoma. More people dip here per capita than about anywhere. I’ve known hundreds of people to try to quit. The number I’ve known to have had some success, let’s say going without a dip for 3 months or more, is probably less than 50. The number to have actually stopped is 5, and that’s if I count myself.
So the next question is why? Why do so few dippers succeed at quitting? I believe it is because the nicotine delivery system for dippers is so much more effective than it is for smokers.
Let’s look to an analogy to further illuminate my point. Is smoking heroin the same as injecting it? No. People who inject it directly into their bloodstreams are getting a far more potent dosage than those absorbing the drug through smoke in their lungs.
The smoking process alone destroys much of the drug’s potency; whereas when it is injected, the drug is more or less unadulterated.
It’s a similar process with tobacco. When you put the drug unaltered on your gums, it pretty much goes directly into the bloodstream. When you smoke tobacco, the burning process kills much of the potency of the high, and then on top of this you have filters and even weakened versions of the tobacco to choose from.
In the past I’ve read articles describing chewing tobacco as having as many as 12 times the potency of say a filtered, low tar cigarette.
Effects of Withdrawals
Now we’ve established the Why of breaking chewing tobacco addiction being harder, let’s focus on the negative effects of quitting. Just as a general overview, quitting dipping involves all the same pains as quitting smoking, but to a much higher degree, and possibly a few additional side effects that smokers don’t have to deal with.
Just some examples of what to expect: while all recovering tobacco addicts have stomach and digestive issues, if you quit dipping, expect to feel like your insides are being ripped out for at least a month. Whereas a smoker quitting can expect get backed up, if you quit dipping, don’t be surprised if you wind up at the hospital for a severe impaction.
Quitting any tobacco product has the ability to cause an ulcer, but again, if you quit dipping the chances are even higher.
In addition to withdrawals being more intense, expect them to take way longer to recover from. For example, while the “out of the woods” mark for most smokers is around 1 year clean. The “out of the woods” mark for most dippers is more like 3 to 5 years.
In a nutshell, breaking any long term addiction is a time consuming and traumatic experience. With chewing tobacco, though the benefits of quitting outweigh the drawbacks, it takes a toll on your mind, body, and soul to quit. If you wish to quit, stay away from people who tell you otherwise. In the long run their faux positivity will ultimately prove toxic, and the weight of realizing the addiction isn’t gone after a week like they said will ultimately drive you right back to dipping.
Hypothesis: Quitting Chewing Tobacco can cause Extreme Obesity in Men
Do you remember when Jenny McCarthy convinced everybody that autism was caused by vaccinations? And now because a former Playmate told us to quit vaccinating our kids based on incomplete and fraudulent scientific research, we’re all at risk of dying of diseases previously thought to be all but eradicated.
This is proof positive that scientific conclusions based purely on observation can have devastating effects on society when given too much credence. That said, almost all scientific findings are first initiated by observation. The observation then leads to a hypothesis. Then the hypothesis is tested which reveals data. And if that data isn’t bastardized to fulfill agendas, then we have valid results.
It is a known factor that weight gain is a side effect of quitting tobacco. Observation leads me to believe that the 5 to 10 pounds the literature says you will gain if you quit and then quickly lose again is skewed data serving various agendas.
Observation has shown me that while some gain virtually no weight when quitting, the average is more like 20 to 30 pounds, with most never completely recovering to their original weight, which makes sense when you consider that many started the habit to become slimmer in the first place.
But the bigger leap I’m making here is that men who quit dipping tend to get enormous until they seek medical attention. Again, a scientific study needs to be done, but what I’m seeing in men who either have quit dipping for good or for a number of months are subsequent thyroid problems and a reduction in the ability to naturally produce testosterone.
And true to form like everyone else I’ve known to try to have an extended go at quitting dipping, that is exactly what happened to me, yet when I try to explain to my Doctor what I believe happened, he all but laughs me out of the room.
When I quit dipping I was around 250 pounds. Like every other time I’d tried to quit in the past, I started gaining weight as soon as I quit. Like every other time I tried to quit, my appetite was out of control for the first few months. Like every other time I tried to quit, I eventually took control of my appetite and started exercising. Like every other time I tried to quit, these actions did very little in curtailing my weight gain.
And this is what people don’t understand, when you have a biological imbalance, let’s say in a thyroid, nothing but medication is going to fix the problem. Without medical help an overactive thyroid will cause you to shrivel away to a skeleton. With a thyroid that doesn’t produce enough, you will gain weight regardless of your diet.
My weight gain began when I quit tobacco. Starting from 250 pounds, I maxed out at somewhere around 330 pounds after about 6 months tobacco free. Through tremendous effort I was able to get back down as low as 290 pounds, only to balloon back up at the drop of a hat.
I went to the doctor about a month ago. He asked for blood work, and the results showed my thyroid to not be working properly and extremely low testosterone levels, especially for a 38 year old. I have since started on a thyroid supplement called Levothyroxine, and the initial results have been wonderful. Whether or not I will require actual testosterone therapy remains to be seen, but my outlook now is far better than it was just a few weeks ago.
Again, none of these problems have to have been caused by quitting dipping, and if I hadn’t seen this same outcome again and again, I never would have even tried to make this connection, but over and over I’ve seen this result in people trying to quit dipping, some far younger than me.
I’ll put it this way: if I were a betting man I’d put everything I own on there being a connection. Tobacco does affect metabolism. It’s not that big of a leap to think there would be some severe consequences to your weight after breaking a long term addiction, especially with the drug levels ingested through the use of chewing tobacco. I would love for some actual, agenda free research to be done on the matter.
Availability of Nicotine Supplements for Dippers
As I’ve established, dipping is not smoking, and because of this, it can be very hard for the dipper who wants to quit to find help specific to the addiction.
For example, items designed to help, like nicotine patches, lozenges, and even e-cigarettes, are tailored to appease the nicotine levels ingested by smokers. To my knowledge, there isn’t anything commercially available for dippers, and even if there are, they aren't as readily accessible as products to help smokers.
Smoking is more Dagerous than Dipping
For as awful as it is to quit chewing tobacco, I would be remiss in this comparison if I didn’t point out that at least it isn’t quite as hazardous to your health as smoking. As the tobacco can warns: “Chewing tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking,” but it is a “safer” alternative.
The big reason for this is just the smoke. Dippers don’t get emphysema. The breadth of cancers they are likely to get isn’t as large. They don’t impart the ills of their habit to passersby.
One might say that dipping is worse on your teeth, but in my experience smokers’ teeth seem to go just as fast or faster. It goes without saying that all the nicotine in chewing tobacco is bad for your heart, but at least you’re able to remain physically active. Cigarettes rob you of this, and really the net result on heart health is at worst a push between the two.
These are both terrible habits that will likely kill you, and while it is worthy to note that the grip of chewing tobacco addiction is stronger, smoking is undoubtedly worse for your health.
So why quit dipping if it is really so hard, if the road to recovery takes years? I’m closing in on 2 years chewing tobacco free. It’s been miserable, and I still occasionally crave a dip. I’ve been to the doctor on multiple occasions due to side effects I believe to be fruit of my resolve to stop dipping, but it’s still worth it to me. It’s still an achievable and worthwhile goal.
And it’s not all pain. Like I’ve said in previous articles, things get tolerable after about 3 months, and by this point the freedom from the addiction usually seems worth what pain is left to endure. After a year the urges get even more seldom. Doctors can help, too. Just make sure you’re not trading one addiction for a new one, and everything you’re doing to counter the withdrawals is necessary.
And even if it does take 5 years for you to recover from your addiction as much as you can recover, it only amounts to a blip in your existence. To me the thing I like most about being a former dipper is not that I’ve probably extended my life, not that I’ve probably improved my overall health for the long run, not that judgmental a**holes that don’t have the least inkling to what addiction is will finally accept me.
It’s none of that. It’s the freedom of not being shackled to that drug anymore. I can go where I want to go, I can do what I want to do, and I don’t have to worry about having a can of Copenhagen in my pocket. I can wake up in the morning, and I don’t have to put a dip in my mouth to have a personality again.
There is no quick fix here, and I can only speak for myself, but to me the rewards of kicking this most pernicious habit have been well worth the sacrifices.