Nicotine Dependence

Nicotine dependence and addiction has been one of the hardest addictions to break. Nicotine dependence occurs when someone has a physical addiction to the chemical nicotine, which is commonly delivered in various tobacco products, such as cigars, cigarettes, pipes and chewing tobacco. There is not a type of tobacco that is safe to use. Nicotine is a very addictive drug that causes changes in the brain that make you crave more.

Signs of Nicotine Dependence

  • You find yourself wanting more of the drug
  • Not being able to stop taking the drug
  • Having to take the drug just to get through the day
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Impatience
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Depressed mood
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased heart rate

Causes of Nicotine Dependence

When nicotine enters your body, it increases the release of brain chemicals that help regulate behavior and mood. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released when nicotine enters the body, and is the chemical that makes you feel calm and relaxed. People often grow dependent to nicotine due to this feeling of relaxation.

Complications and Long Term Effects of Nicotine Dependence

When a person smokes a cigarette, the body immediately responds to nicotine. It causes a short-term increase in blood pressure, heart rate and the flow of blood from the heart. Cigarette smoking may increase the risk of heart attacks as well. The smoke includes carbon monoxide, which reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. Carbon monoxide can also damage the inner walls of the arteries, allowing fat to build up. This causes the arteries to narrow and harden and a person may be at risk for a heart attack. The carbon monoxide combined with the nicotine effects also creates an imbalance between the demand for oxygen by the cells and the amount of oxygen that the blood can supply. This may increase the risk for blood clots and heart attack.

Help and Treatment

Nicotine treatment often includes replacement therapies combined with behavior change programs. These programs will provide psychological support and skills training. Generally, rates of relapse for smoking cessation are highest in the first few weeks and months and lessen considerably after about three months. Nicotine replacement products are the most common form of treatment, as they provide nicotine without smoking. This helps to lessen the body’s craving for nicotine and to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Replacement products come in several forms including gum, a patch, nasal spray or an inhaler. Nicotine gum, patch and lozenges can be bought over-the-counter. The nasal spray and inhaler (brand name Nicotrol) require a doctor’s prescription. Bupropion is an anti-depressant that doctors may prescribe to someone who wants to stop smoking, as it helps you to resist the urge to smoke. There are countless treatment programs and medications available to those who need to stop their nicotine addiction. There is a way to overcome your nicotine dependence. Talk to a healthcare physician about the option that will work best for you.

View Resources

quitsmoking.about.com – Provides the effects nicotine has on the body


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