Nicotine Dependence

The following information was taken from http://www.mayoclinic.com/

Nicotine dependence is an addiction to tobacco products caused by the drug nicotine. Smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes contains thousands of chemicals, including nicotine. Smokeless tobacco also contains nicotine. Nicotine dependence means you can’t stop using the substance, even though it’s causing you harm.

Nicotine produces physical and mood-altering effects in your brain that are temporarily pleasing. These effects spur your continued use of tobacco and lead to dependence. At the same time, quitting tobacco use causes withdrawal symptoms, including irritability and anxiety.

Nicotine dependence brings a host of health problems. While it’s the nicotine in tobacco that keeps you hooked, the toxic effects come mainly from other substances in tobacco. Smokers have significantly higher rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Symptoms of Nicotine Dependence:

In some people, using any amount of tobacco can quickly lead to nicotine dependence. Symptoms that you may be addicted include:

  • You can’t stop smoking. You’ve made one or more serious, but unsuccessful, attempts to stop.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. Your attempts at stopping have caused physical and mood-related symptoms, such as strong cravings, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, frustration or anger, increased hunger, insomnia, and constipation or diarrhea.
  • You keep smoking despite health problems. Even though you’ve developed problems with your lungs or your heart, you haven’t stopped or can’t stop.
  • You give up social or recreational activities in order to smoke. You may stop going to smoke-free restaurants or stop socializing with certain family members or friends because you can’t smoke in these situations.

When to see a doctor:

If you’ve tried to stop smoking but haven’t succeeded, talk to your health care provider about medications to help you quit. Look for a stop-smoking counselor, who can help you create a treatment plan that works for you. Most people who try to stop on their own don’t succeed. You’re more likely to stop for good if you follow a treatment plan that addresses both the physical and the psychological aspects of tobacco dependence.

Causes of Nicotine Abuse

Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that keeps you smoking. It can be as addictive as cocaine. It increases the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help regulate mood and behavior. One of these neurotransmitters is dopamine, which makes you feel good. Getting that dopamine boost is part of the addiction process.

Tobacco dependence involves psychological as well as physical factors. Behaviors and cues that you may associate with smoking include:

  • Certain times of the day, such as with morning coffee or during breaks at work
  • After a meal
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Certain places or friends
  • Talking on the phone
  • Stressful situations or when you’re feeling down
  • The smell of a cigarette
  • Driving your car

To overcome your dependence on tobacco, you need to deal with the behaviors and routines that you associate with smoking.