Addiction Treatment

Is Nicotine Addictive?

Written By:

Becky Babb

Is Nicotine Addictive?

Statistics of Nicotine Addiction

Nicotine addiction is the most common form of chemical dependence in the US. People smoke for different reasons, but most have something in common: when they started, they didn’t think they’d end up hooked. 80 percent of those who smoke during adolescence end up smoking for life. Of the 35 million who do quit each year, 85 percent relapse within just one week. Those who suffer a heart attack are a little more likely to stop for good, with a 50 percent success rate.

How Nicotine Affects the Body

Nicotine enters the body when tobacco is chewed, snuffed or smoked. It can enter through either the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, the skin or the lungs. Once it enters the bloodstream, nicotine quickly passes the blood-brain barrier, where, like heroin and cocaine, it activates the reward pathways and increases levels of dopamine. Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and breathing patterns change. All these effects are short lived—leading the tobacco user to keep lighting up again and again throughout their day. They need a continual dosing of nicotine to maintain the pleasurable effects and, eventually, to prevent withdrawal.

How Does Nicotine Addiction Happen?

Easily. The drug is just as addictive, if not more, than alcohol, cocaine, or even heroin. Prolonged nicotine exposure creates long-term brain changes. Addiction manifests in several different ways. It has two main characters: physical dependence and psychological cravings. Throughout their addiction cycle, nicotine addicts increase their dosages, often to 25 or more cigarettes per day. Stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, or sadness can trigger the urge to smoke.

How Can Someone Quit Nicotine?

Nicotine addiction is infamously stubborn, but every year, hundreds of thousands of people do conquer the habit. Some manage it through willpower alone. Others find over-the-counter and prescription medications helpful. For most people, a combination of both would be most beneficial, as well as some sort of behavioral treatment for identifying handling the psychological factors of the addiction.Nicotine addiction may not land people in rehab centers, but it claims more lives than any other substance—heroin, crack, meth, etc. Attending therapy can help you to identify and conquer the stressors that cause you smoke.Since 2002, there have been more former smokers in the US than current smokers. Visit the American Cancer Society at–or 1-800-277-2345–for info on how to quit and which organizations may be able to help you.

For questions on addiction and recovery options, call The Last Resort at 512.575.4071.

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