Nicotine Addiction

Nicotine Addiction

Nicotine Addiction Effects, Causes, Withdrawal & Treatment

Nicotine Addiction is the most common addiction in America. There are approximately 50 million people in America who are addicted to some type of tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, and now vapes. According to the piece ‘Nicotine Addiction And Abuse’, published by Addictioncenter.com, conservative estimates put societal costs (including healthcare expenses and lost productivity) of Nicotine addiction in the US at approximately $193 billion a year. [1]

On the authority of the scientific piece ‘Nicotine Addiction’, Neal L. Benowitz, published by the US. National Library of Medicine, [2] “cigarette smoking remains a leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in the United States and other countries. On average, 435,000 people in the United States die prematurely from smoking-related diseases each year; overall, smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths. The chance that a lifelong smoker will die prematurely from a complication of smoking is approximately 50%”.

Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine Addiction

Tobacco use is a major cause of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease. Cigarette smoking is also a risk factor for respiratory tract and other infections, osteoporosis, reproductive disorders, adverse postoperative events and delayed wound healing, duodenal and gastric ulcers, and diabetes. Stopping smoking, no matter how long you have smoked, can greatly benefit your health.

As stated by Healthline.com in the piece ‘Nicotine Addiction: What You Need to Know, Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical found in the tobacco plant. The addiction is physical, meaning habitual users come to crave the chemical, and also mental, meaning users consciously desire nicotine’s effects. Nicotine addiction is also behavioral. People become dependent on the actions involved with using tobacco. They also become accustomed to using tobacco in certain situations, such as after meals or when under stress.

Nicotine is primarily consumed by inhaling the smoke of tobacco cigarettes. Other ways to smoke tobacco include pipes and cigars. Smokeless tobacco is inhaled through the nose as a powder or held in the mouth. [3]

Effects of Nicotine Addiction

Nicotine creates pleasant feelings in the body and mind. When you use tobacco, your brain releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, the feel-good chemical. This creates a brief feeling of contentment and pleasure.

But besides nicotine, tobacco cigarettes and smokeless tobacco contain many cancer-causing agents and other harmful chemicals. The nearly 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco have physical, mental, and psychological effects. [3] Using tobacco leads to grave health complications, including:

Nicotine Addiction
Tobacco cigarettes and smokeless tobacco contain many cancer-causing agents and other harmful chemicals.
  • Lung cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Cancer, especially in the respiratory system
  • Leukemia
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Eye issues, such as cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Impotence
  • Miscarriage and pregnancy complications
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cold, flu, and respiratory infections
  • Loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Gum disease and dental issues
  • The appearance of premature aging
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease among people close to smokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [4] Children living in homes with secondhand smoke are more likely to have:
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory infections
  • Ear infections

Causes of Nicotine Addiction

There are a variety of causes for Nicotine Addiction, but the most common causes tend to center around social and psychological aspects. Most people pick up Nicotine products based on a cultural perception that the use of the drug is ‘cool’. Studies have shown that teens who see actors smoking in movies are more likely to pick up the habit. Most people who use tobacco started in their teens. [1]

Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products causes Nicotine Addiction. This chemical is very addictive, so even infrequent use can lead to dependence. Nicotine abuse is unique because the drug’s intoxicating effects are less intense than most other substances. Although it is a Stimulant, Nicotine doesn’t produce the high levels of energy or euphoria that drugs like Cocaine do. Nicotine does, however, stimulate adrenal glands, which causes a rise in blood pressure and respiration.

It’s possible for smoking cessation products, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches, to cause Nicotine Addiction. However, the risk is low. This is because the amount of nicotine in these products is lower and delivered more slowly than the nicotine in tobacco.

Almost everyone who smokes or uses tobacco can remember how their addiction started and how they never intended to become addicted. Because addiction changes the biochemical makeup of the brain, it becomes harder to quit the earlier a person starts using. Young people are more susceptible to forming an addiction. This is because addictive substances like tobacco activate the brain’s reward system, which is still developing in the teen years. This part of the brain plays a huge role in the production of memories and addictive behavior. [3]

People addicted to tobacco products have a physical desire to continue using tobacco, but they also have a psychological desire because of memories associated with using. These memories trigger the urge to use tobacco. Triggers can be anything from music to certain people or places. There is also a strong behavioral addiction associated with Nicotine addiction. This is why many therapists suggest holding a straw between one’s fingers after quitting smoking cigarettes.

Most people with an addiction to Nicotine are aware of the harm tobacco causes, yet they continue to use the substance. This behavior is characteristic of addiction.

Nicotine Addiction and the Brain

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in the piece ‘ Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarettes Research Report. Is nicotine addictive?’, [5] “A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the “high” associated with other drugs. However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug”. 

Repeated exposure alters these circuits’ sensitivity to dopamine and leads to changes in other brain circuits involved in learning, stress, and self-control. For many tobacco users, the long-term brain changes induced by continued nicotine exposure result in addiction, which involves withdrawal symptoms when not smoking, and difficulty adhering to the resolution to quit.

The pharmacokinetic properties of nicotine, or the way it is processed by the body, contribute to its addictiveness. When cigarette smoke enters the lungs, nicotine is absorbed rapidly in the blood and delivered quickly to the brain, so that nicotine levels peak within 10 seconds of inhalation. But the acute effects of nicotine also dissipate quickly, along with the associated feelings of reward; this rapid cycle causes the smoker to continue dosing to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms. 

Nicotine Addiction Withdrawal

Withdrawal occurs as a result of dependence when the body becomes used to having the drug in the system. Being without nicotine for too long can cause a regular user to experience irritability, craving, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite. These withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours after the last cigarette, quickly driving people back to tobacco use.

When a person quits smoking, withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days of the last cigarette smoked and usually subside within a few weeks. For some people, symptoms may persist for months, and the severity of withdrawal symptoms appears to be influenced by a person’s genes.

In addition, people in withdrawal from nicotine experience neurocognitive deficits such as problems with attention or memory. These neurocognitive withdrawal symptoms are increasingly recognized as a contributor to continued smoking. A small research study also suggested that withdrawal may impair sleep for severely dependent smokers and that this may additionally contribute to relapse. [5]

Treatment for Nicotine Addiction

The physical part of the addiction can be challenging to deal with. To be successful, the person must work to change behaviors and routines. There are many treatment options for Nicotine Addiction, including prescription medication, nicotine replacement therapy, and support groups.

Medications

Some medications can help you quit smoking. They work to lessen cravings. One option is nicotine replacement therapy via patches, gums, lozenges, nasal sprays, or inhalers. These options provide nicotine without the other chemicals found in tobacco. They allow you to defeat the addiction in a slow and methodical manner. [5]

Non-nicotine options include antidepressants. These work to increase dopamine production to improve your mood.

Support groups

Whether you choose an in-person support group or a virtual one, support groups can teach you coping skills, help you work through your addiction, and offer you fellowship with other people facing the same challenges as you.

Home care

Treatment for Nicotine Addiction focuses largely on medications and taking the time to work through withdrawal symptoms and learn coping skills. Try these suggestions to make your transition away from nicotine easier:

Treatment for Nicotine Addiction focuses largely on medications and taking the time to work through withdrawal symptoms and learn coping skills. Try these suggestions to make your transition away from nicotine easier:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Choose snacks that keep your mouth and hands busy.
  • Remove all tobacco products from your home and car.
  • Avoid situations that could trigger a relapse, including being around other smokers.
  • Choose healthy meals.
  • Set realistic expectations about your treatment.
  • Set small goals and reward yourself for meeting those goals.
  • Alternative and natural remedies
Nicotine Addiction
Regular exercise can make your transition away from nicotine easier

Treatment for Nicotine Addiction focuses largely on medications and taking the time to work through withdrawal symptoms and learn coping skills. Try these suggestions to make your transition away from nicotine easier:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Choose snacks that keep your mouth and hands busy.
  • Remove all tobacco products from your home and car.
  • Avoid situations that could trigger a relapse, including being around other smokers.
  • Choose healthy meals.
  • Set realistic expectations about your treatment.
  • Set small goals and reward yourself for meeting those goals.
  • Alternative and natural remedies

Nicotine Addiction is a condition that can lead to multiple serious health problems.  We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to quit tobacco with professional and safe treatment.  Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors.  We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information.  Our specialists know what you are going through.  Please know that each call is private and confidential. 

Sources:

[1] ‘Nicotine Addiction And Abuse’ –  Addictioncenter.com

[2] ‘Nicotine Addiction’, Neal L. Benowitz. – US. National Library of Medicine (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

[3] ‘Nicotine Addiction: What You Need to Know’ – Healthline.com 

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov)

[5] ‘Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarettes Research Report. Is nicotine addictive?’ – National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov