Smoking is a common practice that many consider socially acceptable. Due to the prevalence of nicotine consumption, many tobacco users fail to realize how addictive and harmful this substance can be.
Education is crucial to recognize the signs of an addiction to nicotine in yourself or those around you. Once you have a better understanding of how nicotine affects the human brain, you’ll be able to apply or recommend the best treatment option.
Is Consuming Nicotine Addictive?
With 11.5% of U.S. adults consuming cigarettes, addiction to nicotine is by far one of the most common addictions. It also has devastating health consequences, with an estimated 480,000 annual deaths linked to tobacco use.
Smokers shouldn’t underestimate their addiction to nicotine. With a little under two milligrams of nicotine per cigarette and around 0.06mg per vape puff, smoking tobacco results in a rush of dopamine in the brain.
This euphoric feeling becomes addictive, and smokers need progressively higher doses of nicotine to achieve the same sensation. Smoking quickly becomes a habit, and consumption tends to increase while the smoker experiences withdrawal if they don’t get their daily dose of nicotine. This mechanism is comparable to the way opioids or cocaine affect the brain.
What Symptoms Does Consuming Nicotine Cause?
Besides causing physical symptoms like shortness of breath or headaches, nicotine can cause permanent changes to the brain chemistry that translate into the following symptoms.
1. Irritability and Restlessness
Some of the most common symptoms of nicotine consumption appear when the person can’t get their usual dose of nicotine.
The person will then experience withdrawal. Without enough nicotine to stimulate the brain, dopamine release will stop, and the pleasure center will become inactive. Nicotine withdrawal causes other complex changes to the brain chemistry. These changes can become permanent if a smoker consumes tobacco products for years.
Once dopamine levels drop, the person will experience mood swings. They may become angry and irritable or appear withdrawn. Some smokers become anxious and restless due to withdrawal.
As nicotine addiction progresses, these mood changes will become more noticeable and appear sooner if the smoker doesn’t have access to nicotine.
2. Mental Health
Smoking can have an adverse effect on one’s mental health. While consuming tobacco feels soothing and relaxing, nicotine changes brain chemistry in the long term.
The brain’s pleasure center eventually becomes dependent on nicotine and can’t release dopamine without the presence of this chemical. Other activities that would usually result in dopamine production become insufficient compared to the effects of nicotine.
Smokers with a nicotine addiction have a chemical imbalance that leaves them vulnerable to stress and anxiety. It also makes them more likely to experience depression.
3. Avoiding Smoke-Free Situations
A majority of states have passed indoor air laws to limit smoking in public spaces and protect everyone from exposure to second-hand smoke.
As a result, there are fewer or no public places where smokers can consume tobacco products. For those with serious nicotine addiction, these restrictions can become a problem, and they might fall into a pattern of avoiding places and situations where they can’t smoke.
This avoidance is one of the most difficult signs of nicotine addiction to spot because smokers will often come up with convincing excuses to get out of situations.
4. Inability To Quit
Did you know that only 6% of smokers successfully quit each year, even though a majority would like to stop consuming tobacco products?
A common sign of addiction is the inability to quit. The person might have tried to quit cold turkey, used over-the-counter medications, or tried alternative treatments like acupuncture.
Despite all these efforts, they find themselves unable to give up nicotine completely and keep going back to smoking.
Studies have found that it typically takes between 8 and 11 attempts before the average smoker manages to quit completely. In spite of the wide range of smoking cessation methods available, addiction makes quitting a real struggle for those who decide to take action.
5. Disregard for Adverse Health Effects
Between tobacco prevention campaigns and advice from healthcare providers, it’s difficult to ignore the plethora of diseases tobacco causes or puts smokers at risk for.
Someone with a nicotine addiction will continue using tobacco products despite the known health risks. In extreme cases, smokers will continue consuming nicotine even after a serious diagnosis.
If you know someone whose health is deteriorating or who needs to quit to manage a chronic health problem but are unable to do so, they are likely addicted to nicotine.
3 Signs a Person Might Have a Nicotine Problem: Things To Watch For
Seeing a friend or relative smoke might be a common sight that doesn’t immediately make you feel concerned. However, smoking can quickly turn into an addiction. Here are some signs to watch out for.
1. Increased Consumption
Nicotine is one of the most common forms of addiction. It belongs to the chemical addiction category since users inhale a chemical substance.
Like most chemical addictions, the body builds up a tolerance to this substance. Smokers need to increase the dosage to get the same dopamine release.
As the addiction progresses, you will likely notice that the person smokes more frequently throughout the day. A common sign is to go from smoking one pack daily to two packs or more.
With the popularity of vapes, smokers might also seek products with a higher nicotine concentration.
2. Financial Stress
The average price of a pack of cigarettes now exceeds $8. Due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine, some smokers experience financial difficulties as they feel the need to increase their consumption.
Smokers with a nicotine problem might increase their spending on tobacco products and find themselves short for purchasing other necessities or regret spending money on nicotine products but feel unable to control their spending.
3. Interference With Other Activities
Nicotine consumption becomes an issue if it interferes with other activities. Smokers might find themselves constantly distracted and unable to focus or enjoy the moment because they’re trying to figure out when and where they can take a cigarette break.
Nicotine addiction can also interfere with performance at work if a person has to take several smoke breaks throughout the day, and it can get in the way of socializing or performing basic tasks.
At What Point Is Consuming Nicotine a Problem?
Smoking becomes an addiction and calls for addiction treatment once a person exhibits withdrawal symptoms. They can also realize that nicotine consumption has become a problem once it starts affecting their health or negatively affecting their social life.
Due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine, consuming tobacco products should always warrant a serious reaction, and the person should attempt to quit as soon as possible.
How Do You Deal With Someone Who Has a Nicotine Problem?
If a friend or loved one suffers from nicotine addiction, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Use active listening to find out more about what they get from it. Understanding the cause of addiction will help you put together a personalized plan to quit.
- Don’t be judgmental. Be supportive, and let the person know you’re here for them and want to help them quit.
- While most adults know about the harmful effects of nicotine, teens can benefit from educational resources to fully understand the consequences of tobacco use.
- Find out if they have tried quitting before. Research different methods and help them find one that feels adapted to their needs.
- If they agree to quit or cut back, keep them accountable and celebrate the small victories with them.
Frequently Asked Questions
These common questions will help you understand nicotine addiction better.
What is a nicotine craving like?
Smokers typically feel nervous and stressed out. They might feel jumpy and restless. Some experience physical symptoms, such as tightness in the throat or stomach.
Is it okay to be addicted to nicotine?
The answer is no. Nicotine can disrupt your brain chemistry and have a significant impact on your mental health and well-being. Plus, addiction will cause you to continue consuming tobacco products and ingest thousands of chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems.
Additional Addictions To Watch For
Nicotine addiction can cohabit with other forms of addiction. Some smokers even develop other addictions when they attempt to quit.
Here are a few addiction addictions to watch out for:
- Signs of caffeine addiction:Coffee is another everyday product that can cause addiction and affect a person’s mood.
- Signs of Afrin addiction: Afrin is a decongestant product that can cause physical dependence. Because it’s easy to purchase over the counter, it can be dangerous for those with an addictive personality.
- Signs of exercise addiction: Healthy habits can become addictive and problematic. Exercise addiction can replace nicotine addiction when a smoker quits and adopts a healthier lifestyle.
Recognizing the signs of nicotine addiction is an important step in acknowledging that your consumption of tobacco products has become a problem or in recognizing this behavior in your friends and loved ones.
If you or someone you know suffers from nicotine addiction, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor who can create a personalized plan to help with quitting.