Recent Research Sheds New Light On Why Nicotine Is So Addictive
It’s not just rewarding to the brain by itself it also enhances and prolongs the pleasure we get from other activities
Although our society currently finds itself focused on the tragic epidemic of opioid overdoses, there remains no better example of the deadly power of addiction than nicotine. The measure of a drugs addictiveness is not how much pleasure it causes but how reinforcing it isthat is, how much it leads people to keep using it. Nicotine does not produce the kind of euphoria or impairment that many other drugs like opioids and marijuana do. People do not get high from smoking cigarettes or vaping. Yet nicotines powerful ability to reinforce its relatively mild rewards results in 480,000 deaths annually.
But research continues to provide new insights into the reinforcing effects of nicotine, and we now know that nicotines insidiousness as a reinforcer goes beyond its ability to promote smoking , extending to other non-nicotine drugs and even to non-drug rewards.
This secondary reinforcing effect may contribute to the difficulty smokers have when trying to quit. It is not simply that they crave nicotine and feel withdrawal symptoms in its absence. It is also that other activities are not as enjoyable or motivating to them in the absence of nicotine. This is valuable knowledge that may help us design new prevention strategies and smoking cessation treatments.
Signs You’re Addicted To Nicotine
You may find it difficult to think about anything but smoking until you get your hit. You may want a cigarette as soon as you wake up, or at least in the first half-hour. You may also have conditioned your body to associate certain situations with smoking your lunch break, learning of stressful news, seeing a particular friend, or after sexual intercourse are all examples.
You are, in short, addicted to nicotine if you can’t help but smoke, even if you don’t want to. Over 70 percent of current smokers would like to quit. Few end up being successful and some try to quit as many as 30 times before they’re free from cigarettes. All because of nicotine.
Treatments For Physical And Psychological Addictions
Physical addictions may be treated using prescription medications, nicotine replacement therapies, and relaxation techniques to help ward off cravings. Mental addiction can be harder to shake, as some smokers may not even realize why they are craving a cigarette at specific times, or they may light up before even realizing they are doing so. Counseling can help these people talk through feelings of loss or to work through stressful situations in which theyâd normally turn to cigarettes. Being mindful of when cigarettes are most desired and keeping distractions nearby can also help.Even diet can help with smoking cessation. Sometimes the urge to smoke is merely hunger, so eating foods high in fiber will keep the body feeling full and reduce the urge to smoke.Once the nicotine addiction has been diminished, the mental addiction can be dealt with, allowing smokers to quit at their own pace.
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How To Quit Vaping
Nicotine is a fast-acting drug that starts affecting the brain just seconds after it is absorbed in the bloodstream. From there, it disrupts normal communication between neurotransmitters in the brain and triggers chemical reactions that produce temporary sensations like relaxation, euphoria, alertness, and calmness.
The feel-good sensations that the nicotine in vaping devices produces is very short-lived and can leave you wanting another dose shortly after your first. Its easy to see how this cycle could quickly get out of control and lead to addiction.
If you are trapped by your relationship with your vaping device and you feel like you cant function normally without it, you may be addicted to it. E-cigarettes and vaping devices may be hard to give up, but its not impossible.
You can most certainly overcome a vaping addiction and there is help available. Some of the best ways to get started are:
- Ask an expert who has experience with smoking cessation for advice.
- Develop a personal plan to quit vaping using ideas from the National Institute of Healths smokfree.gov website.
- Consider using medications and other nicotine replacement options like patches or gum.
- Have a set of go-to activities to distract yourself from cravings and urges to vape.
- Join an addiction recovery support group in your community.
- Distance yourself from friends who vape and places or environments that make you want to start vaping again.
Helping A Loved One To Stop Smoking
Its important to remember that you cannot make a friend or loved one give up cigarettes the decision has to be theirs. But if they do make the decision to stop smoking, you can offer support and encouragement and try to ease the stress of quitting. Investigate the different treatment options available and talk them through with the smoker just be careful never to preach or judge. You can also help a smoker overcome cravings by pursuing other activities with them, and by keeping smoking substitutes, such as gum, on hand.
If a loved one slips or relapses, dont make them feel guilty. Congratulate them on the time they went without cigarettes and encourage them to try again. Your support can make all the difference in helping your loved one eventually kick the habit for good.
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Why Do People Get Addicted To Cigarettes
Take a look at the number of people smoking over and over again. You will be forced to think that smoking has massive benefits. Even the manufacturers warn that smokers are liable to die young. And yet, people are mad about it.
Many people cannot live without smoking cigarettes in a day. They have been so addicted to it that they believe its whats keeping them alive. Now let me shock you a bit do you know tobacco is one of the leading causes of diseases and deaths in the United States of America?
Cigarettes alone account for more than 480,000 premature deaths in the country, talking about the USA. Thats about 1,300 deaths daily, which is quite a considerable number for something that is highly preventable.
Now lets go back to the question. Why are people madly in love with cigarette smoking? Why is it that despite all the warnings, many remain hooked? The simple answer is nicotine.
Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco that causes this addiction. It doesnt deliver the kind of euphoria that the likes of opioids and marijuana gives. However, people smoking cigarettes never get high. The short-term reward nicotine can reinforce, is what drives over 480,000 people to an early grave.
What Are The Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the hardest aspects of quitting smoking is dealing with the withdrawal symptoms. This dissuades many people from stopping, but if you can get to week 5, your life will be smooth sailing.
Even after the first 30 minutes after quitting, you can experience symptoms. It all depends on your level of addiction, including how long you used tobacco and how much you use on a daily basis. For the most part, you will see symptoms like:
- Nicotine cravings
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Sweating and nausea
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FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies, also known as NRTs, are products that contain nicotine and are designed to help adults quit smoking by delivering small amounts of nicotine to the brain without the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
NRTs such as nicotine skin patches, gum, and lozenges can help you through the early part of quitting by relieving cravings and lessening nicotine withdrawal symptoms. When used properly, NRTs are a safe and effective way to help quit smoking and can double the chances of successfully quitting cigarettes.4
While there are no FDA-approved NRTs for youth use, talk to your health care provider about treatment options for youth.
How Long Does It Take To Break A Cigarette Addiction
Experts agree it takes about two weeks to break a cigarette addiction. That length of time can vary according to the individual, but thats about as long as it takes for the body to adapt to life without nicotine.
Psychological symptoms and cravings can persist well after the initial two weeks. Some smokers claim they still feel urges to smoke years later. Resisting those urges by distracting yourself, talking to a friend, going for a walk, sipping some water or engaging in other activities is vital. It is possible to relapse and start smoking again even after quitting for a long period of time.
If you are a smoker and want to quit, there are many ways to get help. Most states offer programs to help people quit smoking. Hospitals also offer smoking cessation programs. You can also join a self-help group, taper off cigarettes yourself, or talk to your doctor about other options to quit smoking.
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How To Stop Being Addicted To A Cigarette: Putting An End To Cigarette Use
You have just taken the bold step to quit smoking. Bravo! You have got some courage trust me. The first day and the days after might be the most difficult periods of your life.
But if you hold still, believe in yourself, and apply some essential tips, you will surely overcome.
Here are ideas to keep you going:
What To Do If You Slip Or Relapse
Most people try to stop smoking several times before they kick the habit for good, so dont beat yourself up if you slip up and smoke a cigarette. Instead, turn the relapse into a rebound by learning from your mistake. Analyze what happened right before you started smoking again, identify the triggers or trouble spots you ran into, and make a new stop-smoking plan that eliminates them.
Its also important to emphasize the difference between a slip and a relapse. If you start smoking again, it doesnt mean that you cant get back on the wagon. You can choose to learn from the slip and let it motivate you to try harder or you can use it as an excuse to go back to your smoking habit. But the choice is yours. A slip doesnt have to turn into a full-blown relapse.
Youre not a failure if you slip up. It doesnt mean you cant quit for good.
Dont let a slip become a mudslide. Throw out the rest of the pack. Its important to get back on the non-smoking track as soon as possible.
Look back at your quit log and feel good about the time you went without smoking.
Find the trigger. Exactly what was it that made you smoke again? Decide how you will cope with that issue the next time it comes up.
Learn from your experience. What has been most helpful? What didnt work?
Are you using a medicine to help you quit? Call your doctor if you start smoking again. Some medicines cannot be used if youre smoking at the same time.
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What About Nicotine In Other Tobacco Products
Nicotine in cigars
People who inhale cigar smoke absorb nicotine through their lungs as quickly as people who smoke cigarettes. For those who dont inhale, the nicotine is absorbed more slowly through the lining of the mouth. This means people who smoke cigars can get the desired dose of nicotine without inhaling the smoke directly into their lungs.
Most full-size cigars have as much nicotine as several cigarettes. Cigarettes contain an average of about 8 milligrams of nicotine, but only deliver about 1 to 2 mg of nicotine. Many popular brands of larger cigars have between 100 and 200 mg, or even as many as 444 mg of nicotine. The amount of nicotine a cigar delivers to a person who smokes can vary a great deal, even among people smoking the same type of cigar. How much nicotine is taken in depends on things like:
- How long the person smokes the cigar
- How many puffs are taken
- Whether the smoke is inhaled
Given these factors and the large range of cigar sizes, its almost impossible to make good estimates of the amounts of nicotine larger cigars deliver.
Small cigars that are the size and shape of cigarettes have about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette. If these are smoked like cigarettes , they would be expected to deliver a similar amount of nicotine 1 to 2 mg.
Nicotine in smokeless tobacco
Smokeless tobacco delivers a high dose of nicotine. Nicotine enters the bloodstream from the mouth or nose and is carried to every part of your body.
Nicotine in e-cigarettes
Counseling And Psychological Support
Reviews have indicated that NRT and other medications are most effective when supported by counselling and psychiatric care.
This can range from counseling as simple as advice from a primary care physician to stop smoking to individual, telephone, and group therapy.
These interventions can help people with nicotine dependency overcome the psychological aspects of withdrawal, such as low mood and irritability, while the medications help tackle the chemical side of dependency.
Why Is Nicotine Dangerous
Nicotine can lead to addiction, which puts you at risk of becoming a lifelong smoker and exposing you to the many harmful chemicals in tobacco. These chemicals cause cancer and harm almost every organ in your body. Teens are especially sensitive to nicotines addictive effects because their brains are still developing and this makes it easier to get hooked. Using nicotine at your age can also rewire your brain to become more easily addicted to other drugs.
Nicotine can have other long-lasting effects on your brain development, making it harder for you to concentrate, learn, and control your impulses.
How Addictive Is Vaping Really
Doctors, psychologists, and other health professionals always recommend treating addiction with a multifaceted approach, but no one can argue with the fact that nicotine is addictive. So addictive, in fact, that the National Institutes of Health call it as addictive heroin and cocaine.
When a person inhales nicotine, it gets absorbed into the blood and starts affecting the brain in just 10 seconds. Nicotine disrupts the normal relationship between a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine and the receptors that acetylcholine attaches to. Without that interruption, ACh plays an important role in muscle contraction, memory, cognition and more.
When nicotine attaches to ACh receptors in place of ACh, it triggers a number of chemical reactions that result in temporary feel-good sensations. Those sensations include relaxation, alertness or focus, calmness and euphoria. But those sensations are short-lived, usually subsiding within minutes, because your body removes the substance so quickly — just two hours after ingesting nicotine, about half will already be gone.
No matter how you inhale nicotine — regular cigarette or e-cigarette — it’s still an addictive substance.
Nicotine’s pleasurable effects combined with its short half-life leave people feeling like they need another dose soon after the first one. This results in a vicious cycle of addiction.
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Helping A Teen To Quit
Most smokers try their first cigarette around the age of 11, and many are addicted by the time they turn 14. The use of e-cigarettes has also soared dramatically in recent years. While the health implications of vaping arent yet fully known, the FDA warns that its not safe for teens and we do know that teens who vape are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes. This can be worrying for parents, but its important to appreciate the unique challenges and peer pressure teens face when it comes to quitting smoking . While the decision to give up has to come from the teen smoker him- or herself, there are still plenty of ways for you to help.
Tips for parents of teens who smoke or vape
- Find out why your teen is smoking or vaping they may want to be accepted by their peers or be seeking attention from you. Rather than making threats or ultimatums, talk about what changes can be made in their life to help them stop smoking.
- If your child agrees to quit, be patient and supportive as they go through the process.
- Set a good example by not smoking yourself. Parents who smoke are more likely to have kids who smoke.
- Know if your kids have friends that smoke or vape. Talk with them about how to refuse a cigarette or e-cigarette.
- Explain the health dangers and the unpleasant side effects smoking can have on their appearance .
- Establish a smoke-free policy in your home. Dont allow anyone to smoke or vape indoors at any time.
What Are Nicotine Replacement Therapy Products
NRT provides you with a little bit of nicotine, which locks on to some of your nicotine receptors. To put it simply, these products take the edge off cravings.
NRT such as mouth spray, gum, lozenges and inhaler, give a fast burst of nicotine that can help get past short, strong cravings. NRT patches provide a slow, steady level of nicotine over a long period.
NRT works well on its own, but the best chance of success is to use whats called combination therapy: patches PLUS a fast-acting form of NRT.
NRT patches are available for a discounted price with a prescription from your GP.
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