What is Nicotine? Why is nicotine addictive?
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical found in the tobacco plant. The addiction is physical, meaning habitual users crave the chemical, and mental, meaning users consciously desire nicotine’s effects. People become dependent on the actions involved with using tobacco. They also become accustomed to using tobacco in certain situations, such as after meals or under stress. Nicotine is primarily consumed by inhaling the smoke of tobacco cigarettes. Other ways to smoke tobacco include pipes and cigars. Smokeless tobacco is inhaled through the nose as a powder or held in the mouth.
Tobacco is dangerous. According to NCBI,  smoking-related diseases are responsible for about 435,000 deaths per year in the United States. That’s about 1 in every five deaths in the United States. Therefore, stopping smoking, no matter how long you have smoked, can significantly benefit your health.
Nicotine addiction symptoms include:
- A desire to keep smoking even when health complications arise
- Continued use of tobacco products even if it negatively impacts your life
- An inability to stop using tobacco products
- Withdrawal symptoms when nicotine use stops
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The Effects Of Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine produces pleasurable sensations in both the body and psyche. For example, when you smoke tobacco, your brain has neurotransmitters such as dopamine, the feel-good hormone. This provides a short feeling of satisfaction and pleasure.
However, tobacco cigarettes and smokeless tobacco both include a variety of carcinogens and other hazardous substances. Additionally, nicotine has approximately 4,000 compounds that have physical, emotional, and psychic consequences. As a result, tobacco use results in serious health consequences, including the following:
- Lung Cancer
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Cancer, especially in the respiratory system
- Heart Disease
- Eye issues, such as cataracts and macular degeneration
- Miscarriage and pregnancy complications
- Weakened immune system
- Cold, flu, and respiratory infections
- Loss of sense of taste or smell
- Gum disease and dental issues
- The appearance of premature aging
- Peptic ulcer disease
Additionally, secondhand smoking raises lung cancer and heart disease in those who live near smokers. Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children who live in households where secondhand smoking is present are more likely to have:
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Respiratory infections
- Ear infections
- Other illnesses
How addictive is nicotine?
Nicotine is very addictive, so even infrequent use can lead to dependence. In addition, it’s possible for smoking cessation products, such as nicotine gum, tablets, or patches, to cause nicotine addiction. However, the risk is low. This is because the nicotine in these products is lower and delivered more slowly than the nicotine in tobacco.
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How long does it take to get addicted to nicotine?
There is no definite answer to this question as everyone reacts differently to nicotine. However, there are four primary factors that can help you estimate how long it might take for you to become addicted.
The first factor is how much nicotine you are exposed to. The more nicotine you are exposed to, the quicker you will become addicted. For example, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you will become addicted much quicker than someone who only smokes one or two cigarettes a day.
The second factor is how often you are exposed to nicotine. If you smoke several times a day, you will become addicted quicker than someone who only smokes once a day. The third factor is your individual physiology. Some people are more sensitive to nicotine than others and will become addicted quicker.
The fourth factor is your psychological makeup. If you have anxiety or depression, you may be more prone to addiction. In general, it takes most people several weeks or months to become addicted to nicotine. However, there are some people who can become addicted after just one cigarette.
Nicotine Addiction Treatment
The physical aspect of addiction may be difficult to manage. To be effective, the individual must make an effort to alter their habits and routines. Nicotine addiction may be treated in various ways, including with prescription medicine, nicotine replacement therapy, and support groups.
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Certain medications can assist you in quitting smoking. They help to alleviate cravings. Nicotine replacement treatment is one alternative. It may be administered through patches, gums, lozenges, nasal sprays, or inhalers. These alternatives to tobacco include nicotine but without the other compounds present in tobacco. They enable you to overcome your addiction gradually and systematically. Non-nicotine options include antidepressants, which operate by increasing dopamine production in the brain to enhance mood.
Whether you choose an in-person support group or a virtual one, support groups can teach you coping skills, help you work through your addiction, and offer you fellowship with other people facing the same challenges as you.
Treatment for nicotine addiction focuses mainly on medications and working through withdrawal symptoms and learning coping skills. Try these suggestions to make your transition away from nicotine easier:
- Choose snacks that keep your mouth and hands busy
- Remove all tobacco products from your home and car
- Avoid situations that could trigger a relapse, including being around other smokers
- Get regular exercise
- Choose healthy meals
- Set realistic expectations about your treatment
- Set small goals and reward yourself for meeting those goals
Alternative And Natural Remedies
Other solutions that can help you overcome your addiction include:
- Essential oils
However, the safety and efficacy of each option are primarily unknown.
Effects Of Nicotine Withdrawal
Addicted tobacco users who stop using nicotine products will face withdrawal. Effects of nicotine withdrawal include irritability, anxiety, and physical symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue. The first week will be the worst for withdrawal symptoms, but each passing day will get easier. Even when withdrawal symptoms have subsided, though, sudden cravings are common. So again, learning discipline is vital for these situations.
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Managing Nicotine Withdrawal
Regardless of how you go about quitting smoking, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms at some point throughout your trip. However, you do not have to succumb to these symptoms and abandon your effort to quit smoking. Rather than that, here are some suggestions for dealing with withdrawal symptoms.
Sleep And Rest
Your body is undergoing significant changes as it tries to overcome nicotine dependency. It’s natural to feel particularly fatigued during nicotine withdrawal. Consider taking naps or going to bed early. While you sleep, your body continues to cleanse.
Sometimes people gain weight when quitting smoking because they try to satisfy their cravings for a cigarette with food. This is another reason people put off stopping — fear of gaining weight. Instead, find a distraction other than food when you begin craving a cigarette. For instance, you might try playing a game, reading a book, or going for a stroll. The objective is to divert your attention away from the temptation and onto a new thought.
Nicotine has been shown to enhance mood and may provide an illusion of well-being. Without the medication, you may experience mild depression. Thirty minutes of exercise each day may help combat tiredness and sadness by increasing your body’s natural “feel-good” endorphins. Exercise may also aid with sleep improvement. Avoid exercising just before going to bed for the most remarkable effects. Rather than that, let yourself three to four hours of leisure before bed.
Make Your Life Smoke-Free
Solicit from friends and family members that they respect your new lifestyle and abstain from smoking in your presence. This may include requesting that they smoke just outdoors and not inside your home or vehicle.
In the past, you turned to cigarettes as a quick pick-me-up when times were stressful — but no more. Now you have to find techniques to deal with everyday stress more healthily. Physical exercise, such as walking, house cleaning, or gardening, may help you relieve tension while diverting your attention away from nicotine cravings. Deep breathing methods or meditation may assist you in regaining your composure and avoiding unproductive outlets for your stress. Whichever way you discover works best for you, keep it in mind for times when you need to vent.
Turn To Your Accountability Partner
Be candid and inform them of your withdrawal. Inform them of your rationalizations: “Only one cigarette won’t cost me much” or “I’ll smoke a cigarette just this time to get rid of this desire.” Your spouse can assist you in identifying ways in which you undermine your quit-smoking efforts and offer the necessary support and encouragement to overcome the urge.
At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing support through nicotine addiction and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our professionals know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
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 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2928221/
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/