20th May, 2024

Smoking Addiction

Overview, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

In an era where so many illicit drugs cause severe addiction syndromes and even behaviors like gambling, shopping, and sex are coming to light as possibly addictive, we sometimes forget about the addictive nature of nicotine and smoking cigarettes. Nicotine addiction is still extremely common, as “most people (nearly 70%) who smoke want to quit,” according to the NIDA Teen.

There are signs and symptoms of nicotine and smoking addiction, just like those caused any other addiction syndrome. And treatment can actually be largely beneficial to the individuals who seek it for their nicotine addictions. Because nicotine and its use as a cigarette, snuff, dip, etc. are legal, it is sometimes forgotten how addictive these products can be.

Smoking/Nicotine Addiction Overview

addicted to cigarettes

It is the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products that makes smoking addiction develop.

The majority of nicotine users are dependent on the drug which is a common co-occurring issue with addiction, especially with the daily use of a drug that is not meant to heal an individual. The NIDA Teen states, “Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.” While nicotine and smoking is legal, there have been many different studies and campaigns attempting to help smokers and non-smokers alike understand how dangerous smoking can be.

Smokeless tobacco products (which consist of chew, snuff, dip, and other tobacco products that are not smoked) usually contain more nicotine than cigarettes do and the tobacco is not burned off so, for the individual, these products can be even more damaging. On the other hand, smoked tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) can be damaging to others as well through second-hand smoke.

Nicotine can be just as addictive as any other type of drug, and an individual who smokes or uses tobacco products for a long period of time will more than likely become addicted to them. But how do you know if you are addicted to nicotine?

Smoking/Nicotine Addiction Signs

Someone who becomes addicted to nicotine will show the signs of their addiction, same as someone who is addicted to another drug or a behavior. It can be clear to another individual through careful observation that someone’s use of the drug has become an addiction.

The more common signs of nicotine addiction are

  • Nicotine withdrawal syndrome
    • If an individual goes through nicotine withdrawal, they are definitely dependent on the drug and likely already addicted as well. According to the NIDA, the common withdrawal syndrome associated with nicotine includes:
      • Irritability
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • Cognitive and attention deficits
      • Sleep disturbances
      • Increased appetite
  • Physical effects 
    • There are many physical effects common with the long-term use of tobacco products, including:
      • Lung disease
      • Cancer
      • Heart problems
      • Reproductive damage
      • Dental issues
      • Ulcers
      • Weakened immune system
    • If a person is a smoker and experiences any of these issues, it will be likely that friends, family members, and especially their doctors will advise them to quit. If they are truly addicted, however, they may not be able to, even though they may realize that their health is in danger.
  • According to CESAR, other signs of long-term tobacco use are: 
    • Tooth decay
    • Sensitive teeth
    • Gum loss
    • Sores inside the mouth
    • Tobacco stains on skin, teeth, and clothing
    • Excessive drooling
    • Sweating
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
  • If you do not know that the individual smokes, another sign that points to addiction is if they are secretive about their smoking and try to hide it from you. They may hide cigarettes somewhere in the house they believe no one will look and go to great length to hide the evidence of their addiction (using perfume to cover up the cigarette smoke, smoking out of a window to hide the smell, etc.)

The addictive property in tobacco products is the nicotine. Nicotine and tobacco themselves do not cause all of the adverse health effects but there are other products within these drugs that do. When it comes to addiction, however, as stated by the CDC, “Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.” Someone who becomes addicted to nicotine will have a very hard time quitting and may need professional treatment to stop using tobacco products.

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Smoking/Nicotine Addiction Symptoms

If you are a smoker, you may feel that you have your use of these products under control. You may also feel that you do not. But how can you know for sure? There are certain symptoms that the smoker should be aware of which point to addiction. For you to be certain that you are dealing with addiction to smoking and nicotine and may need help, read the symptoms below.

  • You smoke seven or more cigarettes a day.
    • This is a common number that reveals the possibility for nicotine addiction. Someone who is addicted and is asked by their doctor or loved ones how much they smoke might lie to make it seem like less.
  • When you smoke, you smoke heavily and always try to get the most from any cigarette.
  • You never pass up an opportunity to smoke.
  • Even if a situation is not ideal, you will still smoke if you can.
    • Ex. You will go outside in the extreme cold to smoke a cigarette if you are unable to smoke in the house.
  • You will use other types of tobacco products to get your fix if you are unable to smoke cigarettes.
    • Ex. You will smoke an E-cigarette, chew, or dip in order to get your fix if you’re not able to smoke or do what you regularly do to get your nicotine.
  • You compulsively seek more of the drug in whatever way necessary.
  • You are building up or have built up a serious tolerance to tobacco and nicotine, meaning that you have to smoke much more than you used to in order to achieve the same effects that you once felt from smoking.
    • This type of tolerance is similar to all drug use and can be very dangerous.
  • You have either
    • Tried to quit
    • Thought about quitting
    • Wanted to quit and have never done so or weren’t able to do so and experienced relapse.

The symptoms of nicotine addiction are just as clear as the symptoms of other drugs of abuse. If someone feels that their tobacco use is compulsive, experiences tolerance toward the drug, experiences levels of both physical and psychological withdrawal as a result of not being able to smoke, and feels a kind of powerlessness over their use of the drug, then they are experiencing an addiction similar to those of other drug addiction syndromes.

Smoking/nicotine addiction is not any less problematic or easy to break than any other types of drug addictions. However, many people do understand the danger of smoking and that is why they try to quit. According to NYC Health Information, “Smoking doubles the risk of death in every age group,” and regular smokers (most of whom are addicted to nicotine) “lose, on average, 14 years of life.” Quitting smoking is possible, especially with the help of treatment.

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By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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