Some chewers say they chew because they are nervous. Others say they chew to celebrate. Some think they chew for energy. Yet others chew to stay awake or to sleep. Some think they chew to think. Another once said he returned to chewing when experiencing chest pains. He figured the fear of a heart attack is enough to make anyone chew. None of these reasons satisfactorily explains why people continue chewing. However, the answer is, in fact, quite simple. Chewers dip because they are chewers. More precisely, chewers dip because they are chew-a-holics.
A chew-a-holic, like any other drug addict, has become hooked on a chemical substance. In the chewer’s case, nicotine is the culprit. He is at the point where the failure to maintain a minimum level of nicotine in his blood stream leads to the nicotine abstinence syndrome, otherwise known as drug withdrawal. Anything that makes him lose nicotine makes him chew.
This concept explains why so many chewers feel they chew under stress. Stress has a physiological effect on the body which makes the urine acidic. Whenever the urine becomes acidic, the body excretes nicotine at an accelerated rate. Thus, when a chewer encounters a stressful situation he loses nicotine and goes into drug withdrawal. Most chewers feel that when they are nervous or upset chews help calm them down. The calming effect, however, is not relief from the emotional strain of the situation, but actually the effect of replenishing the nicotine supply and ending the withdrawal. It is easy to understand why chewers without this basic knowledge of stress and its nicotine effect are afraid to give up chewing. They feel that they will be giving up a very effective stress management technique. But once they give up chewing for a short period of time, they will become calmer, even under stress, than when they were chewers.
The explanation of how physiological changes in the body make chewers chew is difficult for some chewers to believe. But nearly all chewers can easily relate to other situations which also alter the excretion rate of nicotine. Ask a chewer what happens to their chewing consumption after drinking alcohol, and you can be sure they will answer that it goes up. If asked how much their consumption rises, they will normally reply that it doubles or even triples when drinking. They usually are convinced that this happens because everyone around them is chewing or smoking. But if they think back to a time when they were the only chewer in the room, they will realize that drinking still caused them to chew more. Alcohol consumption results in the same physiological effect as stress – acidification of the urine. The nicotine level drops dramatically, and the chewer must take one chew after another or suffer drug withdrawal.
It is important for chewers considering quitting to understand these concepts because once they truly understand why they chew they will be able to more fully appreciate how much more simple their life will become as an ex-chewer.
Once the chewer stops, nicotine will begin to leave his or her body and within two weeks all the nicotine will be gone. Once the nicotine is totally out of the body, all withdrawal will cease. No longer will they experience drug withdrawal states whenever encountering stress, drinking, or just going too long without chewing. In short, they will soon realize that all the benefits they thought they derived from chewing were false effects. They did not need to chew to deal with stress, or to drink, socialize, or work. Everything they did as a chewer they can do as a non-chewer, and in most cases they will now do these activities more efficiently and feel better during them.
They will become a more independent people. It is a good feeling and a major accomplishment to break free from this addiction. But no matter how long they are off chewing and how confident they feel, the ex-chewer must always remember that he or she is a chew-a-holic.
Being a chew-a-holic means that as long as they don’t take a single dip, smoke a cigarette, cigar or pipe, or inject it into their bloodstream with a syringe, gum or patch, they will never again become hooked on nicotine. If, on the other hand, they do make the tragic mistake of experimenting with any nicotine product, they will reinforce their addiction. This will result either in returning to their old level of consumption or experiencing a full fledged withdrawal process. Neither situation is fun to go through.
So, once off of chewing, the ex-chewer must always remember just who and what he is – a chew-a-holic for the rest of his life. Remembering this, you can remain truly independent from nicotine by following one simple practice – Never Take Another Dip!
© Joel Spitzer 1983
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.