Nicotine addiction is a form of substance use disorder wherein a person keeps using nicotine products regardless of their harmful effect on their health. When they attempt to stop using nicotine products, people experience withdrawal symptoms.
The biggest symptom of nicotine addiction is the excessive use of cigarettes or other products. A person needs more and more just to feel relaxed or to improve mood.
Various causes can contribute to nicotine addiction including nicotine’s impact on the brain’s reward center. Mental health problems and a person’s environment can also contribute to nicotine addiction.
Although tricky, nicotine addiction is manageable. A combination of medications and counseling can go a long way. Many natural remedies can also help by reducing cravings. A person with nicotine addiction also needs support from friends and family.
Nicotine addiction is an addiction to chemical nicotine, found in tobacco. A person with nicotine addiction experiences strong cravings and compulsive need to keep using nicotine products despite health consequences.
Nicotine addiction is classified as a substance use disorder (SUD). In fact, it’s one of the most prevalent SUDs in the world. The biggest problem with nicotine addiction is that most people don’t consider it addiction at all since cigarettes are legal to purchase.
However, like any other type of addiction, nicotine addiction can affect a person’s quality of life in many ways. The same way other SUDs need a well-structured treatment, so does nicotine addiction.
Causes of nicotine addiction can be of biological, psychological, or social nature. The causes of nicotine addiction are listed below.
Effects of nicotine addiction can be physical and psychological, as well as short- and long-term. Nicotine doesn’t just affect the smoker, but other people too. Secondhand smoke effects are also present. The effects of nicotine addiction are listed below.
The main signs and symptoms of nicotine addiction are listed below.
Nicotine addiction affects different aspects of a person’s life. This problem is more than constant smoking or the use of other tobacco products. Other possible nicotine addiction symptoms are listed below.
In order to overcome nicotine addiction, a person needs strong willpower to quit. A support system at home is also necessary.
One of the most important aspects of overcoming nicotine addiction is to avoid certain mistakes. Some people attempt to quit cigarettes by switching to e-cigarettes, but that is not the ideal way to combat nicotine addiction.
Many people end up using both “regular” and e-cigarettes, meaning their problems can become even worse. It’s not a wise idea to replace one nicotine-rich product with another.
There are many things you can do to overcome nicotine addiction. For example, you can join support groups. Also, evidence shows web-based cessation programs, texting interventions, and social media support groups can help in recovering from nicotine addiction.
A healthy lifestyle is also an important aspect of treating addiction to nicotine. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and proactive stress management can also help you. They improve both physical and psychological health, thereby enabling you to overcome cravings more effectively.
Risk factors of nicotine addiction include:
Treating nicotine addiction usually requires a combination of medications and counseling. Medications in the treatment of nicotine addiction are, actually, nicotine replacement therapy that helps reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Some products are available with a prescription only whereas others can be purchased in the over-the-counter form.
It’s not recommended to find and use these products on their own. A healthcare provider or addiction specialist recommends the best option based on the severity of nicotine addiction and other factors such as the overall health of an individual.
Medications are usually accompanied by counseling that helps patients develop the skills necessary to give up nicotine for good. Besides individual counseling sessions, group therapy sessions are also available, according to Mayo Clinic. The group sessions are useful because patients get to share their stories, experiences, and help each other.
In a study, published by the Addiction journal, cognitive-behavioral therapy was successful at helping subjects quit smoking.
Patients usually receive treatment for nicotine addiction in an outpatient setting, which doesn’t require them to live in the treatment facility. Residential or inpatient programs are also available.
Nicotine is addictive because it influences reward centers in the brain. Like other substances and chemicals, nicotine can promote the release of dopamine which produces pleasure and satisfaction.
Nicotine is an alkaloid produced by different types of plants with tobacco being the most significant. Since it’s a stimulant, nicotine speeds up the messages that travel between the brain and the body.
The main use of nicotine is through tobacco products that are either smoked or chewed.
The advantage of nicotine is that it may produce a relaxing sensation. But, the disadvantages are numerous. Nicotine is highly addictive and it’s easy to become dependent on it. With continuous use, nicotine can increase the risks of various health conditions.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the more a person smokes cigarettes, the more nicotine they need. In other words, they are teaching the brain to need more nicotine and keep using it. Eventually, this leads to addiction.
Also, the way nicotine is processed by the body contributes to its addictiveness. When the smoke enters the lungs, the nicotine is absorbed quickly in the blood and delivered to the brain. The levels of this chemical achieve a peak within 10 seconds upon inhalation.
Just like the effects occur rapidly, they also go away fast. That’s why a person needs to take another cigarette right after finishing off the previous one. This creates a vicious cycle that ends in addiction.
Nicotine addiction counseling is necessary when a person acknowledges the existence of a problem. In other words, they may think about quitting using tobacco products or trying to do so unsuccessfully.
Sometimes, underlying mental health problems may contribute to nicotine addiction. Plus, nicotine addiction may induce strong withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, that are difficult for a person to resist.
With counseling, an individual with nicotine addiction adopts healthy coping mechanisms and skills that reduce cravings and allow them to quit smoking or use tobacco products successfully.
According to the CDC, 57.2% of adult smokers, or 18.8 million people who had seen a health professional quit smoking, successfully achieved it in 2015. Even brief advice from a professional can improve a person’s chances of quitting.
Symptoms of nicotine addiction withdrawal include cravings, headaches, anger, frustration, irritability, anxiety and depression, trouble concentrating, insomnia, increased appetite, and restlessness. Some people may also experience dizziness, constipation, nausea, nightmares, and sore throat.
According to a study from the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, symptoms of nicotine can be classified into somatic, cognitive, and affective. Somatic symptoms include tremors, gastrointestinal discomfort, bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate), and increased appetite.
Cognitive manifestations include impaired memory and difficulty concentrating. On the other hand, affective symptoms range from anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) and depression or anxiety to irritability, hyperalgesia (higher pain sensitivity), and dysphoria (state of unease or dissatisfaction).
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal last between several days and a couple of weeks. The first week is the hardest, especially days 3 through 5. This is the time when nicotine is cleared out of the body.
Complications of nicotine addiction include:
Nicotine addiction can lead to various complications that affect a person’s quality of life. The most common complications of nicotine addiction are listed below.
Alternatives and natural remedies for nicotine addiction can help support a person in their recovery. They revolve around lifestyle adjustments, ancient practices, and various herbs a person can use. The most important alternatives and natural remedies for nicotine addiction are listed below.
The main purpose of alternatives and natural remedies is to support the recovery from nicotine addiction, they don’t eliminate the addiction on their own. They work by decreasing the intensity of cravings and thereby making withdrawal symptoms more tolerable. Other useful alternatives and natural remedies for nicotine addiction are listed below.
The body becomes dependent on nicotine because it causes chemical changes in the brain. It takes a matter of seconds for nicotine to reach the brain after each puff of a cigarette. In the brain, nicotine influences the release of neurotransmitters that control behavior and mood. Dopamine is one of them.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain’s reward center and it’s in charge of good mood and feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Repeated exposure to nicotine reduces the expression of dopamine receptors in the brain. This is called neuroadaptation, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine explains. As a result, a person needs more nicotine to feel the same effects of relaxation and pleasure. This creates a vicious cycle that leads to nicotine dependence and addiction.
The main difference between nicotine and tobacco is that nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco. On the other hand, tobacco is a plant Nicotiana tabacum grown for its leaves. The leaves of tobacco are smoked, chewed, or sniffed.
All tobacco products contain nicotine, including cigars, cigarettes, hookah tobacco, smokeless tobacco, non-combusted cigarettes, and even e-cigarettes. The level of nicotine is different from one product to another.
The concentration of nicotine in cigarettes ranges from 6mg to 28mg, but the average content is 10-12mg. A person doesn’t inhale every milligram of nicotine as it burns. Instead, they tend to inhale anywhere from 1.1mg to 1.8mg from each cigarette meaning they inhale between 22mg and 36mg from a pack of 20 cigarettes.
Large cigars contain between 13.3mg and 15.4mg of nicotine whereas e-cigarettes have 0.5-15.4mg. A whole can of chewing tobacco contains 144mg of nicotine whereas hookah has 1.04mg per puff, Healthline reports.
Besides nicotine addiction, a person may develop tobacco addiction too. Contrary to the popular belief, these conditions aren’t the same. Tobacco addiction is a compulsive need to use tobacco products regardless of the consequences they may cause. Nicotine is not the only addictive chemical in tobacco. A combination of acetaldehyde and other additives makes tobacco products even more addictive, according to the European Commission Public Health.