Addiction: Tobacco & Nicotine
Tobacco is one of
the most widely abused substances in the world. It is highly addictive. Although
tobacco use appears to be on the decline in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 20 percent of adults still smoke. This
is despite nearly 70 percent of smokers wanting to quit.
Nicotine, the main
addictive chemical in tobacco, causes a rush of adrenaline when absorbed in the
bloodstream or inhaled via cigarette smoke. Nicotine also triggers an increase
in dopamine—the brain’s “happy” chemical. This stimulates the area of the brain
associated with pleasure and reward. Like any other drug, use of tobacco over
time can cause a physical and psychological addiction. This is also true for
smokeless forms of tobacco such as snuff and chewing tobacco.
What Is the Prevalence of Tobacco & Nicotine Addiction?
and state governments spend billions fighting tobacco addiction each year. This
is because smoking costs the country billions every year. The CDC
reports that cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion annually in lost
productivity and health care costs.
tobacco use has declined in recent decades, it is still one of the most common
addictions. The CDC
estimates that about 45.3 million adults were smokers in 2010. This accounts
for 19.3 percent of adults.
to the CDC,
approximately 3.5 percent of the U.S. adult population uses smokeless tobacco, which
poses similarly dangerous health risks.
What Are Symptoms of Tobacco & Nicotine Addiction?
A tobacco addiction
is harder to hide than other addictions. This is largely because tobacco is
legal, easily obtained, and can be consumed in public. Also, the smell of the
addiction follows the smoker in their hair and clothing.
individuals can smoke socially or occasionally, others become addicted. An
addiction may be present if the person:
- cannot stop smoking or chewing, despite attempts to quit
- has withdrawal symptoms when he or she tries to quit ( shaky hands, sweating, irritability, or rapid heart rate
- must smoke or chew after every meal or after long periods of time without using, like after a movie or work meeting
- needs tobacco products to feel “normal” or turns to them during times of stress
- gives up activities or won’t attend events where smoking or tobacco use is not allowed
- continues to smoke despite health problems
What Are Treatments for Tobacco & Nicotine Addiction?
A tobacco addiction
can be one of the most difficult addictions to manage, despite the wealth of
available treatment options. Many users find that even after nicotine cravings
have passed, the ritual of smoking can lead to a relapse.
There are several
different treatment options for those battling a tobacco addiction.
The patch is known
as a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). It is a small, bandage-like sticker
that the user applies to the arm or back. The patch delivers low levels of
nicotine to the body. This helps wean the body gradually.
Another form of
NRT, nicotine gum can help users who need the oral fixation of smoking or
chewing. This is common, as the addict may have the urge to put something into his
or her mouth. The gum also delivers small doses of nicotine to help the user
Spray or Inhaler
Nicotine sprays and
inhalers can also help by giving low doses of nicotine without tobacco use.
These are sold over the counter and are widely available. The spray is inhaled,
sending nicotine into the lungs.
recommend the use of medication to help with tobacco addictions. Certain
antidepressants or high blood pressure drugs might be able to help manage
Psychological and Behavioral Treatments
Some tobacco users
have success with methods like hypnotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or
neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). These help the user change their thoughts
about addiction and work to alter feelings or behaviors the brain associates
with tobacco use.
In most cases,
treatment for tobacco addition requires a combination of methods and will vary
from one person to the next. Individuals should talk to their doctor when
considering NRT methods or medication to ensure the safety and effectiveness of
treatment. Your doctor may also have good treatment advice.
What Is the Outlook for Tobacco & Nicotine Addiction?
treatment, tobacco addiction can be managed. Like other drugs, addiction to
tobacco is never really “cured.” In other words, it is something that a person
may battle for the rest of his or her life.
Tobacco users tend
to have high relapse rates. The National
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that about three-quarters of
individuals who try to end chronic tobacco use end up relapsing within six
months. A longer treatment period or change in approach may prevent a future
relapse. Research has also shown that altering lifestyle habits, such as
avoiding situations where there will be other tobacco users or implementing a
positive behavior (like exercising) when cravings start can help improve
chances for recovery.
tobacco addiction can have fatal consequences. According to the CDC,
every year in the United States, one in five of all deaths are related to
tobacco use. Tobacco use can cause:
- cancers of the lungs, throat, and mouth
- heart disease
- chronic lung diseases like emphysema and bronchitis
Any one of these
conditions can be fatal. Quitting smoking or tobacco use can significantly
reduce the risk of death due to these diseases. Even once the disease has been
diagnosed, stopping tobacco use can improve treatment efforts.
What Are Resources for Tobacco & Nicotine Addiction?
Many resources are
available to individuals with tobacco addiction. The following organizations
can provide further information about tobacco addiction and possible treatment
- Nicotine Anonymous
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Medically Reviewed by:
George Krucik, MD, MBA
Jul 3, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.