Health Information: Nicotine Addiction

A report published on nicotine addiction has found that smoking cigarettes is just as addictive as doing drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Over the years it has been recognized that smoking and not being able to quit is due to the addiction to nicotine contained in cigarettes. It has been shown that nicotine has an effect on the brain similar to drugs like cocaine and heroin. Back in the 1980’s, it was confirmed by the US Surgeon General that any form of tobacco is addictive, and that addiction is caused by the nicotine.

Despite numerous studies and reviews, there is still debate as to the extent to which smoking is controlled by a physiological addiction. This debate has come up due to the fact that there is not a universally accepted definition of addiction but the World Health Organization defines addiction as “A state, psychic, and sometimes also physical, resulting in the interaction between a living organism and a drug, characterized by behavioural and other responses that always include a compulsion to take the drug on a continuous or periodic basis in order to experience its psychic effects, and sometimes to avoid the discomfort of its absence. Tolerance may or may not be present.” Based on this definition, it is plausible to define nicotine as an addictive substance.

Properties of Nicotine

Nicotine is a drug that is considered a stimulant, but can cause the user to feel the effects of both stimulation, and relaxation. The physical and mental state of a smoker can influence the way that a cigarette can affect psychological perceptions. Nicotine is thought to be addictive because of the way that it releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that causes feelings of pleasure. It has however been shown that in the long run, nicotine will actually decrease the ability of the smoker’s brain to experience the pleasure caused by the release of dopamine. When this happens, smokers need a greater amount of nicotine to experience that pleasure, so they wind up smoking more cigarettes.

Difficulty in Quitting

One of the strongest indicators of the power of nicotine addiction is the discrepancy between the desire to quit and the actual success rates of those trying to quit. It has been proven that approximately seventy percent of smokers want to stop but the percentage of people that are successful at quitting remains very low. Out of the 70% of people that want to quit smoking, only about 20% are successful in quitting for a year, and only about 3% of those people can quit using sheer willpower. The majority of smokers make several attempts at quitting before succeeding. Another indication of the addictive nature of nicotine is that around 50% of patients with lung cancer will continue smoking even after undergoing surgery.

Nicotine Withdrawal

There are many symptoms that can occur when someone is going through nicotine withdrawal. For smokers, typical symptoms of withdrawal include cravings for nicotine, anxiety, restlessness, sleep disturbances, weight gain, increased appetite, irritability, and decreased heart rate. For those trying to quit smoking cigarettes, nicotine replacement therapy such as patches or gum can ease the withdrawal symptoms.

Tobacco Industry

It has been proven that the tobacco industry has known about the addictive properties of cigarettes since the 1960’s. Publicly however, tobacco companies flat out denied that nicotine is addictive. Throughout the years, some tobacco companies have admitted that their product is addictive but more recently, some tobacco companies are trying to cast doubt over the addictiveness of smoking cigarettes.

While it can be very difficult to quit smoking, it is important for your health and the health of those around you. If you are not able to just stop, there are numerous kinds of aids that will help you stop smoking and improve your health.

Nicotine Addiction – Information on nicotine addiction and its effects on the body from the American Heart Association.

Tobacco Addiction – Research and resources on tobacco and nicotine addiction from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Quit Smoking – Information including a step by step guide to help those who are looking to stop smoking.

The Truth – A website exposing the way that big tobacco companies work, and how they are fully aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes.