I wrote in a post about my addiction to nicotine that it is the way the drug is delivered that is the problem. Smoking delivers a shitload of poisons and damage that are absent in vaping. Vaping is the act of putting stuff in your lungs which are designed for air only, and people are kidding themselves if they think that has no effect (it eventually did on me). Pouches, which I took up to supplant vaping, cause effects in the mouth and in the stomach, so who knows what long term damage they are doing? But recently I began to wonder precisely how much is about delivery and how much is about what is being delivered.

In that previous blog post I was aiming to give up using pouches. I don’t know why I did not. Perhaps I convinced myself that the ill health I was feeling was due to a virus or a vaccine, or old age. Perhaps, because this was just prior to the spring when we all begin to feel better, I convinced myself it was simply a winter malady. Throughout the ensuing spring, and most of the summer, I was fine with using maybe 8 high strength pouches a day. Then, towards the end of summer I got clobbered with some joint-aching malady that also resulted in a shoulder impingement. Perhaps I got a virus then, and it certainly seemed a long term one. I went through most mornings of the winter months feeling like I was at the start of a cold: throat irritation, sneezing, mucus etc.

This continued but throughout it one thing I noticed more and more: every time I used a pouch I felt rougher. It was obviously irritating my throat and causing me to sneeze. Then, in the last month I was noticing a chest pain every time I used one. Next a scattering of panic attacks came along for the ride. I wondered then if the problems I’d had over the winter were mostly down to nicotine.

So I gave it up completely. I have to say that this was probably the first time in decades I had been without nicotine for so long. Withdrawal wasn’t so bad – nowhere near how it was in my past attempts to give up smoking. I got cravings that lasted about a quarter of an hour maybe a couple of times a day. I found they went away if, when they occurred, I just got up and went to do something different. Symptoms declined but I continued getting occasional panic, chest pain, asthma and mucus. It then occurred to me that there might be another cause.

The health promoters on You Tube and elsewhere have their variable approaches to diet and exercise but one thing they are all utterly sure about is how we need plenty of sleep. I went through some bad periods of insomnia in the past, for reasons I’ve detailed elsewhere, and over a number of years built up a strategy. I take magnesium, melatonin and 5-htp, which certainly help, but then I found out about a cheap antihistamine that many use for sleep: Benadryl, diphenhydramine. I started taking that and it was very effective. Probably because it was effective I researched it, and because I researched it I started limiting how much of it I was taking. However it was something that crept back and I started using more. Buying some in the UK my dosage went up from 25ml pills I could break in half to 50ml capsules I could not.

I read up once again on Benadryl while also bearing in mind how with all these things, like nicotine, you get withdrawal as well as side effects while you’re taking them. The withdrawal is precisely why you continue. In my reading I discovered (or rediscovered) a whole host of worrying effects from using the stuff and stopped (twelve days into quitting nicotine). Didn’t take me long to realise how it had been fucking me up. In a day I was suffering withdrawal symptoms – one I could definitely identify because something I haven’t experienced in years: nausea. Chest pains and panic attacks hung on and my blood pressure shot up from around about 140/90 to 160/90. It then began to ease over a couple of weeks. During that time I kept checking my blood pressure and it went down and down, dropping to an average of 120/70 and on the odd occasions I’ve checked it in the past it had never been consistently that low. I think it was the Benadryl since, over a few years, I did go through a bottle of 600 x 25mg pills. The fucking stuff was disguising the blood pressure signal resulting from all the exercise and low carb eating!

Lessons learned in all this? It’s that old one from Heinlein: TANSTAAFL. You can be sure that if anything you take has a positive effect on you, it almost certainly has drawbacks and unforeseen consequences elsewhere.

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