Nicotine Addiction

The reason cigarette smoking is such a hard habit to break is because nicotine is a highly-addictive substance. Every time you take a drag off of a cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate increase for a short time. Nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to break. 

What is Nicotine Addiction?

Nicotine is one of the chemicals that are present in tobacco products, and it is responsible for giving smokers a "rush" within about 10 seconds of taking a drag of the cigarette. The effect doesn't last for very long, which is why a person with a nicotine addiction keeps lighting up.

Signs of Nicotine Dependence

Most people who smoke become addicted to nicotine. Someone who has become addicted to nicotine may have cravings for cigarettes, have difficulty stopping smoking, and have nicotine withdrawal symptoms when they try to do so. Some people feel irritable when they don't have a cigarette, while others find it hard to concentrate without them.

Causes of Dependency

Nicotine causes addiction because it affects the brain by making it produce an increased amount of a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has a lot to do with how a person feels pleasure. When dopamine levels drop, the nicotine addict may feel down or even depressed and lights up another cigarette to feel good again.

Effects of Use

A person who smokes puts an extra strain on their heart every time they have a cigarette. Cigarettes also contain carbon monoxide, which makes it more difficult for your body to get the oxygen it needs. To compensate, blood flow to the extremities is reduced.

Smokers have bad breath, stained teeth and fingers, and a lowered resistance to colds and the flu. The nicotine addict's sense of smell and taste are less sensitive than a non-smoker's are. Appetite is reduced as well.

Complications and Long Term Effects of Nicotine Abuse

About half of people who smoke will die as the result of their habit. Smoking causes cancer in several parts of the body, including the lungs, mouth, throat, and voice box. It also increases a person's chances of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Nicotine addiction has been linked to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Nicotine addicts lose their hair and develop wrinkles at a younger age than non-smokers. Men who use smoke may have fertility problems, and women who use tobacco products are at increased risk of miscarriage, having a low birthweight baby, or going into labor early. Painful menstrual periods or an irregular cycle may be caused by smoking.

Help and Treatment for Nicotine Addiction

When someone who has been addicted to nicotine is ready to stop smoking, there are a number of treatment options available. Some people are able to choose a date and quit cold turkey, but they are probably in the minority. One option is to use a nicotine patch to get weaned off this substance.

You also have the option of using a prescription medication to help you stop smoking. See you doctor to ask if using Chantix or other drugs will help you kick the habit. Nicotine gum or an inhaler may help you to quit using nicotine.

Beyond Quitting: Recovery and Rehabilitation

Within 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your body starts to change. Your pulse rate and blood pressure drop to normal levels. At the three-day mark, your body will be nicotine free. At the three-week mark, nicotine will no longer be controlling you.

For support, check out 12-step programs like Nicotine Anonymous or Smokers Anonymous. You can also head to our Cigarettes forum for discussion with ex-smokers and people still trying to kick the habit.

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