Nicotine is the primary component in cigarettes that causes addiction that results in withdrawal symptoms. Smoking cigarettes can quickly lead to nicotine addiction that is characterized by:
- A compulsive desire to smoke more
- Smoking despite dangers, consequences or health problems
- Inability to quit smoking without treatment
- Trying to cut back and failing
- Smoking more than you plan
- Smoking more often than you plan
- Smoking when stressed, happy, sad, bored or otherwise feeling the need to fill a void
Unfortunately, more than half of all people who smoke become addicted to nicotine and then even when they want to quit find it difficult to do. An estimated two out of three smokers know the harmful effects of nicotine addiction, understand how dangerous smoking is and want to quit but despite their desire to stop they cannot find the strength, willpower and necessary support to refrain from cigarette use.
The majority of people who try to quit smoking on their own will relapse within the first seven days. Nicotine addiction produces various chemical imbalances in the brain that make it very difficult to stop smoking and to stay abstinent even when you want to. Because nicotine increases dopamine levels in the brain when cigarettes are smoked and that dopamine then significantly drops when a person tries to quit, feelings of depression, anger, sadness or otherwise unhappiness are all common in people who try to quit smoking.
Why is Nicotine so Addictive?
Tobacco products that contain nicotine have a high potential for abuse and for causing addiction, but why? What is it that makes nicotine so addictive and how can you get over the addiction once it has set in?
When a person smokes a cigarette, he or she will feel an almost immediate buzz or high from the nicotine. Though this high is not as prevalent as the high would be if a narcotic or similar drug were being used, there is still a change that occurs within the brain making the smoker feel lightheaded, energetic, and faint. This feeling is reduced little by little with each subsequent smoking occasion until ultimately, the user no longer actually feels these feelings but he or she still craves the. This is the result of nicotine dependence developing and causing addiction.
When the smoker stops smoking, all of these feelings dissipate and the smoker will feel irritable, anxious, sad or otherwise down and will crave another cigarette. This cycle of ups and downs leads to addiction that is difficult to get a hold of and to overcome.
Treatment for Nicotine Addiction
While nicotine is highly addictive, the addiction is treatable. It can be rather difficult to stop smoking and you may have to go through a series of withdrawal symptoms but there is help! Treatment for nicotine addiction will often include any one or combination of the following methods:
- Nicotine replacement gum, lozenges or a nicotine patch
- Valium or similar drugs to help you relax
- Support groups to help you stay on track and remain abstinent from cigarettes and other tobacco products
- Medications such as Chantix or similar drugs that have been proven to reduce cigarette cravings
- Mood stabilizing medications and anti-depressant medications to help stabilize mood swings
- Counseling and therapy
The right type of nicotine addiction treatment will depend on your own individual needs and various other factors. Remember, 85% of people who try to quit smoking on their own will fail within the first week! If you do relapse, don’t get discouraged from trying again. Quitting smoking is a difficult process but with proper treatment and care, your own commitment to quitting and support from others you can get your smoking habit and your nicotine addiction under control.