Nicotine Addiction, Explained

There are many substances that are addictive, but many forget that tobacco products exist alongside alcohol and heroin. With nicotine still a problem globally, here’s everything you should know about nicotine addiction.

When it comes to addictive substances, we often on the most dangerous options, including alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. But nicotine is a mind-altering and highly addictive substance as well.

Today, we wanted to take a moment to discuss nicotine addiction and answer some of the questions you may not have known to ask.

What is Nicotine Addiction?

Nicotine addiction is, in short, when a person uses nicotine so frequently that he or she experiences adverse symptoms (i.e. withdrawal) in the absence of nicotine.

Nicotine occurs naturally in the tobacco plant, which is used to make cigarettes, chewing tobacco, vape pens, cigars, and pipe tobacco. When ingested, nicotine is highly addictive, causing users to physically and mentally crave the substance. Since nicotine creates temporary pleasing effects in the brain, it can be easy to develop habit-forming behaviors and an addiction to tobacco products.

How Long Does it Take to Get Over Nicotine Addiction?

From the onset, symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can last a few days to several weeks, determined by factors like the amount of nicotine you regularly ingest, how long you have been using nicotine, your weight, and if you suffer from a mental illness.

What is the Science Behind Nicotine Addiction?

Similar to caffeine, nicotine is a naturally-occurring alkaloid that tricks the brain into wanting and craving more. It does this by increasing a brain chemical called dopamine, which then activates the pleasure-seeking part of the brain. But nicotine’s effects are pretty short-lived, usually about two hours, which causes you to constantly crave it and slowly become addicted.

What Are Some Symptoms of Nicotine Addiction?

Signs that you may have an addiction to nicotine include:

  • You can’t stop using tobacco products.
    If you’ve made serious attempts to stop using nicotine, but they have all been unsuccessful, this signals you could be addicted.
  • You keep smoking despite having serious health problems.
    This means that even if you know that smoking can exacerbate your current health problems, it has been impossible to stop using nicotine.
  • You have withdrawal symptoms.
    Typical nicotine withdrawal symptoms are irritability, strong cravings, anxiety, restlessness, depressed mood, problems concentrating, insomnia, anger and frustration, increased hunger, and constipation. 
  • You choose tobacco products over other social activities.
    You may find yourself giving up social activities where you aren’t able to smoke, resulting in isolation from friends and family.

What Are the Complications of Nicotine Addiction?

The health risks and complications associated with the use of tobacco products are largely due to the breadth of harmful chemicals that are added to the product between harvesting and the sale of the final product. There are almost 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco. Combined with nicotine, regular ingestion of tobacco products has been shown to cause:

  • Lung cancer
  • Lung diseases like emphysema and COPD
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Cancer in the respiratory system
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Infertility and impotence
  • A weakened immune system
  • Dental issues and gum disease
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Osteoporosis
  • Asthma

What Happens When You Quit Using Nicotine?

Like with other forms of addiction, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms if he or she quits ingesting nicotine. The severity and longevity of these symptoms depend on the factors we mentioned previously.

The effects of nicotine withdrawal are normally felt within minutes of putting down your last cigarette, which is why there are many so-called “chain smokers”. Let’s break down the timeline of nicotine withdrawal.

20 Minutes 

After twenty minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate start to return to normal levels. The fibers in your bronchial tubes start to move again, which helps to remove bacteria and other irritants from your lungs. 

8 Hours

Your carbon monoxide levels will return to normal levels, which increases your body’s oxygen levels.

24 Hours

In addition to the nicotine level in your blood becoming almost untraceable, you’re at much less risk of experiencing a heart attack.

2 Days

Previously damaged nerve endings are starting to grow back. Your senses are improving and you may notice that things taste and smell better than before. 

3 Days

Your lung capacity increases, allowing you to breathe easier. 

2 Weeks

Since your lung functioning has increased to about 30 percent, you’re breathing better and walking better than ever since the oxygen level in your body has increased. In addition, your circulation has become much better.

1 Month

You’ve probably noticed that you have much more energy, less sinus congestion, and are breathing easier during exercise. Fibers in your lungs are growing back, which reduces mucus and protects against infection.

6 Months

You’re noticing much less mucus and phlegm since your airways are less inflamed. Additionally, it’s becoming easier for you to cope with stressful situations. 

1 Year

Now that you’ve been nicotine-free for a year, you’re benefitting from dramatic health improvements for your overall functioning and lung capacity. It is easier to breathe as you experience less coughing and wheezing.

3 Years

Your risk of a heart attack has diminished to that of a nonsmoker.

What are the Treatment Options for Nicotine Addiction?

There are many effective treatment options for nicotine addiction, depending on your needs. In fact, there have been many individuals who quit using tobacco products on their own due to the strength of their conviction. But others have gotten an assist from either over-the-counter products (e.g. gum and other products designed for smokers) or more intensive clinical care.

From medications and cognitive behavioral therapy, there is a treatment for you. Call Silicon Beach Sober Living to learn more. 

May 26, 2022

Adam Snyder


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