A dr once told me it was easier to get off the heroin than to kick nicotine.Any thoughts?
It's an anecdote that I've heard being said back and forth many times, but it's like comparing apples to... shoes? - "Both get kinda soggy when left in the cold rain".
Let's assume for a second that getting equal doses of Heroin and Nicotine is both legal and just as easy (same price per dose), and let's further assume, that there is next to no social stigma to taking Heroin, similar to smoking. Also, lets assume that the main mode of application of Heroin, is also smoking (as it is perfectly doable, it's called "chasing the dragon").
So we can get doses of both Heroin and Nicotine the exact same way, for instance we could picture "Heroin Cigarettes" being sold at Kiosks and at the register shelf in shops and convenience stores.
Nicotine has a very benign hit. Applying Nicotine has a fulfilling, calming effect. It doesn't put us to sleep, but it lets us cool off. Heroin has a hugely strong hit. It has disassociative element, which is completely different from Nicotine. Taking Heroin lets you forget and not feel pain, both physical and psychological. It is possible to "forget" about things like life threatening wounds, and even things like cancer pains, which is among the strongest pains known and identified in the medical sciences. Smoking a cigarette will surely not alleviate any pains like this, or cause disassociative trips.
When we're "suffering" from Nicotine withdrawal, we might feel restless, abrasive, we're certainly annoying to people we live with and that we work with. People often notice smokers not having smoked for a while.
When you're hooked on Heroin, you need the same dose you're used to, just get out of pains, which the withdrawals induce. This is often practiced by people who are low on funds to get their next dose, and try to take "just enough" Heroin to keep the pains at bay, this is usually called "chipping it". In order to feel any of the usually desired effects of Heroin, the dosage must be increased.
The level at which we kinda stick to a dose, is usually leveling off with Nicotine. If we'd use twice as much nicotine, we'd feel a bit sick, but also often feel like "smoking more is unnecessary". People who really do like to smoke, and have no intentions to quit or smoke less, are also unlikely to increase their smoking amount. These limits are different from person to person, but overall, there is a certain optimum, to which smokers level off to. It is out of the question to eventually inject Nicotine. With Heroin, this couldn't be different. The reason why people eventually turn to injecting Heroin, even though they usually start with smoking or snorting Heroin, is because the "hit" is just so much stronger. Around the time when people inject heroin to keep pains at bay, is when they notice they completely lost control of their lives. This is usually the point, when junkies notice how they've entered hell and there's no way out of it. However the road to hell, was quite difficult to see...
Let me interject at this point with another anecdote: "I'm not afraid of death, I'm afraid of dying."
OK, so the problem is the bump before the finish - that's the problem. The problem with kicking Heroin, is the most excruciating pains you'd have to endure for days and weeks on end. These pains slowly rise in the first 24-48h, and then just seem to relentlessly stay at such a high level. I heard people often can't sleep for several nights, which adds to the pain and suffering. It is not uncommon, for people staying awake from these pains for three to four days, and then only pass out from the exhaustion and fatigue. The effects slowly wear off and around two weeks later they're at a point, where people still feel miserable in their head from all the mental mayhem Heroin did to them, but the pains are manageable with painkillers and sleeping pills can be used to induce sleep. This "pain management" both physical and psychological is the core aspect of treatment in addiction clinics. After around a month of treatment in what is often a closed ward, patients are released into an open ward for six to twelve weeks, and after than they're released home, with weekly counselling meetings, etc.
Now why would people perpetuate an anecdote like "Heroin is easier to kick than a smoking habit"?
The reason has several layers: It is common knowledge, how adverse the effects of Heroin are. Both in taking them and when dealing with withdrawals. It is also not just a pain, but the social issues that come trailing a heroin addiction. At the point where a junkie has lost basically all control over his life, the general stigma is that of it's their own fault, but they cannot get out of it, so they're similar to a person suffering from a mental condition. Smoking however, is associated primarily with the habitual parts. The idea is to "just get over it" as it isn't perceived as something that's really hard. For people not in on it, kicking smoking seems to be almost inconsequential. it's like not eating a doughnut, etc. Smoking cessation kinda throws you a curve ball here. From an outside perspective, it looks easy, but it's not. However when we look at Heroin, most of us know that withdrawal from Heroin is pretty horrible.
The painful withdrawal from Heroin is something that leaves the former users almost shell-shocked. It is unlikely they'll restart taking Heroin after having lived through that. Especially, since most users of Heroin have been chipping it for years prior to withdrawing from it. There are very few positive memories linked to taking the drug. When it comes to Smoking this is very different. Withdrawal from smoking is unpleasant, but certainly less painful, than withdrawals from Heroin. Up until someone actually attempts to quit, Smoking doesn't seem so bad. It's pleasant, it's a nice excuse to take a break, to many it works as social glue. After a certain while, people restart smoking because of these reasons, but also, because they remember the good feeling they had when they were smokers. Smoking kinda becomes a nicer memory than it really was, simply because people tend to forget the relatively short while of withdrawals, but remember the decades of having nice memories while being a smoker.
Restarting smoking is super easy. Just go get a pack, that's it. Restarting Heroin isn't that easy at all, you'd have to get the funds first and then get in touch with the sort of shady people selling those.
The support landscape is vastly different. There is literally no one that will advise taking Heroin, except dealers. Even people being hooked on Heroin will speak badly about it, and encourage people to never start it. If a Junkie wants to kick the drug, almost the entire community, including other junkies, will support that decision. With smoking this is very different. Deciding to quit, feels almost like coming out of the closet. Other smokers seem to be surprised in a kinda condescending way when they learn you've quit. Support comes from other non-smokers, but there's almost a certain expectation to revert to smoking.
Smoking is very insidious in that way. It makes it look so easy, "just stop, and get over it", that's why it looks as if it is more difficult to quit smoking. Smoking just still accepted as something cultural. People aren't exactly encouraged to smoke, but they're definitely not looked down upon when they do. I'm an individualist, people should do whatever they want, but we shouldn't lie to people either. Smoking isn't a lifestyle, it's a means of administering an addictive drug, pure and simple.
The reason why the anecdote "quitting smoking is more difficult than to quit Heroin" is mainly down to the observation, of how easy it is to just restart after quitting. Once someone quit Heroin, they will do almost anything to keep it like that, except if they're so far gone, that all hope is lost. With smoking, there are the good memories, the general acceptance, and the lacking support of quitting. Also, when a smoker restarts smoking it often feels like going back to a certain inner circle of friends and colleagues, so that makes the hurdle to restart smoking much less of an issue.
In conclusion, just one thing: Don't use this statement as an excuse to fail a quit.
Sure, the social circumstances make smoking seem, inconsequential, when parents smoke it's perhaps viewed as kinda not that great, but parents taking Heroin? Whoa, that goes straight to CPS. Quitting smoking is not harder than quitting Heroin, by a long shot. It's easy and kinda pleasant to believe in it, because it makes us feel better. But these anecdotes and sound bites paint a very wrong picture, and are very unfair to people suffering from an actual Heroin addiction.
When people fail a quit and use this anecdote to explain themselves, be aware of what they're doing: They're lying to themselves and to other people. The correct response to someone uttering this as an excuse is: "<male_cattle_excrement_in_all_caps>!"
EDIT: Had to edit due to the last word having been censored.