How Addictive is Nicotine?

How Addictive is Nicotine?Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical present in tobacco. People who smoke tobacco cigarettes on a regular basis typically do so because they suffer from an addiction to nicotine. Although cigarettes are widely available and easily accessible, smoking quickly leads to symptoms associated with addiction. Hallmark signs of addiction include continuing to engage in an unwanted behavior despite negative consequences. Most smokers recognize that using cigarettes is harmful to their health, yet they continue to smoke regardless of the risks. Smokers often wish they could stop smoking, but feel that they are unable to do so. A smoker’s urge to use a cigarette can be as strong as a drug user’s urge to use heroin or cocaine.

How Nicotine Affects the Brain

Using nicotine activates the brain’s reward pathways and increases levels of dopamine, the chemical that mediates feelings of pleasure in the mind and body. A cigarette can distribute nicotine throughout the brain in as little as ten seconds, quickly leading to pleasurable effects. However, these effects quickly dissipate. As a result, smokers often smoke continuously, in an effort to maintain the pleasurable effects of smoking and to avoid the negative withdrawal symptoms of going without cigarettes.

Nicotine Withdrawal

After developing an addiction to nicotine, smokers experience withdrawal symptoms in between instances of smoking. Smokers may experience withdrawal symptoms within two to three hours of smoking their last cigarette. Nicotine withdrawal is most often associated with the physical effects of smoking, but the feel, smell, and sight of a cigarette can cause a psychological reaction that brings on the urge to smoke. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty concentrating

Nicotine withdrawal can be treated with nicotine patches or gum, which supply a small amount of nicotine to the recovering smoker in order to prevent or temper his or her withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment for Nicotine Addiction

Many drug rehab centers have a specific protocol that they follow for the treatment of nicotine addiction. Nicotine addiction can be effectively treated via outpatient services. However, patients who are struggling with addiction to other substances, such as alcohol or drugs, may receive treatment for nicotine addiction during their inpatient treatment program. Physicians are also capable of helping nicotine users overcome addictions.

Nicotine Addiction Help

Our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day to help people who are suffering from addiction find the help they need. Feel free to call at any time and speak with one of our admissions coordinators who can connect you to addiction treatment options.