Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Addict Experiment.

I've been releasing comments from Blogger's insane 'Spamcatcher' again. It just makes up the rules as it goes, I think. There is no device I can find that would let me say 'Look, this isn't a spammer, let his/her comments through' so it's going to be a frequent occurrence.

Anyway. The experiment.

It's not a proper experiment. It has absolutely no scientific validity because it cannot be done blind and it has only one subject and one operator and they are both me. I cannot prove a damn thing because none of you can check. I can, however, prove something to myself and maybe point the way for others to prove something. Think of it as a preliminary study.

I have contended that nictotine is not an addiction. I do not dispute that it has effects, those effects have been measured and proven. The effects are no more dramatic than those obtained with caffeine and I broke the caffeine 'addiction' years ago.

I once spent ten days in China. It was work, not holiday, although as I was in Beijing I did get to see most of the sights. There was no dairy, no MacDonald's, no coffee, limited chocolate (non-milky) and the tea was so interesting I brought a load back with me. There was no shortage of booze, including some seriously strong booze, and smokes at prices that were only just above 'free' by Western standards. Hardly any fruit, a few bits of vegetable matter and everything - everything - was fried.

In ten days I lost over ten pounds and was never ill. That's another argument. The point of mentioning that trip here is that when I came back, I only wanted decaff coffee. I could no longer tell the difference between caffeine and not-caffeine.

So to the experiment. In order to prove that nicotine is fun but not an addiction, I need two things. Ordinary smokes and nicotine-free smokes. It can't be done with tobacco and herbal cigarettes. I tried the herbals once, many years ago. They were foul. Any smoker anywhere is going to spot the difference at once, despite the antismoker insistence that smokers can't smell anything. Yes, we can. So any experiment that tries to fool smokers with herbal cigarettes will fail.

What is needed is something that tastes exactly the same with or without nicotine and that is where Electrofag comes in. Electrofag has flavouring, steam-producing stuff and nicotine. Take out the nicotine and it tastes the same. If it's all about the nicotine, then nicotine-free Electrofags won't work as well as nicotine-loaded ones. If it's just about the smoking, it won't make a difference.

So I ordered some nicotine-free cartridges. I looked at Totally Wicked first because they have a massive range of flavours. I thought I'd get some flavours and propylene glycol and mix my own preference for nicotine-free flavour strength. Unfortunately I came across this and felt incredibly unwelcome on that site. They really hate smokers. So I didn't buy anything there.

Instead I went to ecigarette direct who have a much more restricted range of flavours but who are not antismoking zealots. There are tobacco and menthol zero-nicotine cartridges on the way. And some apple ones which are not zero nicotine but I fancied tryng them.

When they arrive I will stop smoking tobacco and switch to Electrofag for a while. How long? Depends on what I feel like - as I said, the experiment is not valid anyway. I will mix half zero-nicotine cartridges with half high-nicotine cartidges and smoke them. They look the same. Can I tell the difference? Will I be frantically swapping cartridges to find the ones with the drug?

If I am right, I will not find a difference. There is still the difference between tobacco and Electrofag, of course, but again - if I am right, I can manage without tobacco for at least a week. Because if I am right it's the smoking, not the nicotine, that does the trick.

The antismokers say you should set a date for stopping. I say you should never do that. The addiction is psychosomatic. If you set a date in the future you are ramping up the stress and boosting your chances of failure. If you want to stop, stop now. If you don't want to, don't.

So I have not set a fixed date myself for this experiment. It begins the day the cartridges arrive.

It will prove nothing to the antismokers. Nobody will know if I just carry on smoking or whether I bother to do the experiment at all. The only one who will know is me.

Still, it might inspire someone to collect together a group of Electrosmokers and give them cartridges, some of which are nicotine free, and try it as a proper experiment. It can't be done with real smokers because you would have to factor in that some smokers don't take to Electrofag at all. Herbal cigarettes will be instantly detected by smokers because we actually do still have a sense of smell. To the extent that we can tell different tobaccos apart, in fact. This experiment can only be done with Electrofag.

I'm certain it will work for me but there are serious confounders.

One - I know that half the cartridges in the box are no-nicotine.
Two - I am both subject and operator.
Three - I am already convinced that I am not addicted.

So it won't be proof.

But it might well be a start.


subrosa said...

What are you doing with Blogger spam LI? I get all my comments sent to a particular email address then I can delete any which I think are inappropriate. Fortunately I don't get much spam these days.

Off to read the rest of your post.

Leg-iron said...

Blogger has a new Spam catcher that puts things into a 'spam' folder in the comments part of the dashboard.

The sneaky part is that it sends me the comment by Email as usual with no indication it's been locked away.

I have to check, but rarely do so unless I try to respond to a comment and it's not there, or someone tells me about it.

Paul said...

I had always felt that I was more attracted to smoking itself than nicotine (mostly I have been a quite casual smoker) and about a year ago I took home a e-cig to test it out and found it quite satisfying. I only found out later it was nicotine-free.

richard said...

I found that 4mg nicotine gum was far more tolerable than 2mg. Tasted the same, though, so I would suggest that there is at least some psycho-chemical effect from nicotine, and predict that if you are a heavy smoker like me then you will detect it readily.

Woody said...

Allen Carr always said smoking is a habit and that any addiction to nicotine is weak and easily broken.

JuliaM said...

"I've been releasing comments from Blogger's insane 'Spamcatcher' again. It just makes up the rules as it goes, I think. "

Me too :(

They are really going to have to work on a 'Let this one through in future, he/she is a regular, damn it!' option. If MS Mail can do it, I'm sure it's not beyond Blogger...

Anonymous said...

I agree that it’s a habit, not an addiction.
I had always assumed I was addicted (because that's what we're told) - smoked since I was 14, 20/30 a day for 40 years.
When the smoking ban arrived in Scotland, I was so incensed about having to pay the exorbitant tax on smokes, while being unable to have a fag where I wanted, that I quit - just like that - it was no problem, I had no cravings at all, and I've never had another.
Having said that, I enjoyed a fag.

Anonymous said...

Electrofag - some marketing exec went there, huh. I have a buddy who thinks those smokeless cigs are even worse than the real thing although he can't prove it. He thinks fake smoke is bad news. I handroll my cigarettes and they are quite addictive - loaded with nicotine.

Anonymous said...

I'd be wary of depending too much on ideas that nicotine and caffeine are the principal attractions in coffee and cigarettes.

These weren't decided by scientists but by people who disapproved of the practice.

Why not choose solanesol or tyrosine?
Because they didn't know about them, but they did know that nicotine was used as a pesticide.

Caffeine seems to be just something you have to put up with if you want to enjoy the coffee.

Amongst other things, both contain varying amounts of Vitamin B3 which we do like a lot.

This original misdirection seems to have been confusing scientists, trying to spread the benefits to the rest of the population, for a long while.


richard said...

The level of physical addiction has been exaggerated so that people buy replacement products which make it harder to quit. Lucrative sharp practice, really. However, there are some physical symptoms which are trivial compared to heroin withdrawal or the DTs -and short-lived ie several days. I smoke 12.5g a day but stop every now and then for months or a year or two. The first two days are tense but after that there's no problem. Why I am of the opinion that it's not an imaginary addiction is because upon quitting I would have vivid dreams about smoking and sleep pattern is disturbed.

Woodsy42 said...

For what its worth I agree with you. I gave up smoking ages ago, (although I have recently restarted occassionally as a defiant tactic). What I really missed when I stopped was the loss of one of my 'treats'.
Depending on time and circumstance for a work break/relax I could have a cup of tea or coffee, biscuit, sweet, spirits, cigarette etc. Removing cigarettes from the list removes not just one thing but a whole segment of 'taste'. Nothing to do with nicotine at all.
Also supporting your non-addiction hypothesis I have tried a shiska pipe, that has no nicotine and is tobacco free, and doesn't smell of herbal crap. It is easily as good as a cigarette to me. But less convenient. Worth looking at as another alternative to nicotine free vapours perhaps?

richard said...

Maybe it depends on the individual. Some folks become addicted to alcohol and some never do. Possibly it's the same with nicotine. I beleve addiction exists as animals ie smoking chimps or even squirrels which chew cigarette butts will get aggressive without their fix. But it's not as severe imo as the replacement therapy industry says.

Anonymous said...

Nicotine is not unique to tobacco, its a very common plant chemical in many of our staple foods.

I've never yet heard of people chewing through 5lbs of tomatoes to feed their addiction.

They didn't find out until after the invention of the nicotine patch.
Which with a 98.4 failure rate doesn't sound very addictive to me.


Dick Puddlecote said...

I think you have misunderstood Totally Wicked, LI. They were talking at Christmas time about how they are developing a chat and date site for launch this year targeted at vapers and smokers. The reasoning behind it being that at other such sites, many people state that they don't want to hear from smokers, so with their new site there would be no such exclusions.

The witch from Essex said...

Wouldn't big pharma be upset if it were actually proved that smokers were addicted to the smoking habit and not the nicotine ? That would end the sale of NRT overnight.
Big tobacco wouldn't be over impressed either if they thought that people would get just as much pleasure from possibly dried nettle leafs with a hint of mint !!!

Anonymous said...

I made some herbal cigarettes from the rather interesting herbal teas from my favourite teashop.

They were very pleasant, I think that the fineness of the shredding is key.

The Lemongrass & Ginger Tisane was especially nice.

Trouble is, the family much prefer the scent of tobacco, so I got asked to desist or smoke them outside.


shuggie said...

Sounds a right palaver LI. Would it not be easier just to stop smoking ? We all 'know'that smoking is non addictive so the experiment is invalidated before you even start.

Anonymous said...

I think that shuggie misses the point. What LI is trying to do is to show TO HIMSELF that the 'act of smoking' is what smoking is about, rather than addiction to nicotine.

Unfortunately, there are problems, the main one being that he will be constantly aware of what he is trying to do! The self discipline that we will require will be 'not to think about it' if possible - just smoke the nicotine free stuff and see what happens. Maybe changing from one substance to another quite regularly might help in that respect, so that his mind is more concerned with the variety of tastes rather than the lack of nicotine.
I think that it is a good experiment, LI. Go for it.

moriarty said...

I've been mostly using e-cigs for the last couple of months, with just the occasional Cappuccino mini cigar. (very tasty indeed) I'm absolutely certain that the 'buzz' from smoking isn't from the nicotine.

I need to try some different flavours though, PG doesn't have a very pleasant taste.

Leg-iron said...

Dick - people going aroung wearing T-shirts proclaiming 'The battle against smoking' is only going to encourage one set of people.

I can't support that.

Leg-iron said...

Shuggie - it's time to put my money where my mouth is.

I contend that it's not an addiction to nicotine. I don't stop smoking because I don't want to. Antismoker responses are always 'no, you don't stop smoking because you are addicted'.

The only way to prove it is to stop doing something I enjoy doing just so that antismokers can claim another scalp.

So I'm not stopping. I'm taking a break to prove to myself that I'm right. Just as I take breaks from alcohol to reassure myself I'm not slipping into alcoholism.

In that break I will have Electrofag with and without nicotine to see if I can tell the difference.

It will prove nothing to anyone else. I'm not living in a Big Brother-style camera-laden house (yet!) so I could sneak a smoke and nobody would know. But the pouint isn't to prove this to anyone else. Just to myself.

Once that's done I can argue the point with absolute confidence. Maybe someone will be encouraged to set up a proper randomised trial as a result of this.

Although it could only be done with Electrosmokers. That's the only way to have two products that taste the same with or without nicotine.

They'd have to be able to fund it themselves though. Neither the tobacco companies nor the Pharmers want the addiction story damaged.

Anonymous said...

re. ecigs. See today's ASH news. ASA brings own case about ecig ad claims on grounds that nicotine is a dangerous vasoconstrictor. If you have a few spare minutes, go to the ASA website and complain about nicorette etc for same reason. Obviously your complaint will be deemed inadmissible for some reason, but it might get them thinking if enough people do it.

Anonymous said...


I have a hunch the buzz is more likely to be nitric oxide, which would be the same with any herbal smoke.

You make it your own body, this is just a little boost.

Nitric oxide: From menace to marvel of the decade

Your Brain Boots Up Like a Computer

"As we yawn and open our eyes in the morning, the brain stem sends little puffs of nitric oxide to another part of the brain, the thalamus, which then directs it elsewhere.

Like a computer booting up its operating system before running more complicated programs, the nitric oxide triggers certain functions that set the stage for more complex brain operations, according to a new study.

In these first moments of the day, sensory information floods the system—the bright sunlight coming through the curtains, the time on the screeching alarm clock—and all of it needs to be processed and organized, so the brain can understand its surroundings and begin to perform more complex tasks."


Anonymous said...

Just quit or don't. You're just wasting your time, and now mine, also.

Leg-iron said...

Anon - wasting your time? It seems so, since it's taken you 23 days to read this post, and to moan about something that ended 19 days ago.

I'll try to make the posts shorter until you catch up.

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