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nicotine addiction

Nicotine Addiction Withdrawal and Side Effects

The Most Addictive Drug in the World

chain smoking cigarettesWould it be surprising to find out that the most addictive and dangerous drug in the entire world is actually one that is 100% legal?

While many people would associate dangerous street drugs like heroin, crack cocaine, and crystal meth as some of the deadliest and most addictive drugs in the world, some might argue they’re actually way off.

While these drugs are incredibly addictive and dangerous, there is no drug that has caused more deaths in human history than nicotine, which is the addictive substance found in cigarettes and tobacco products.

Tobacco is a Preventable Cause of Death

Currently, tobacco use is the number one preventative cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

  • Nearly 480,000 people die prematurely every year due to smoking related disease
  • For every person who dies from a smoking, 30 people suffer with at least one serious illness caused by smoking
  • More than 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking
  • 42.1 adult Americans, 18% of the entire adult population, smoke cigarettes every day
  • More men smoke, than women
  • Tobacco costs the country more than $289 billion a year, including at least $133 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity

Nicotine is the addictive component in cigarettes that causes so many people to continue smoking on a regular basis.

Secondhand Smoke is Dangerous

Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products are dangerous to health of those who use them, but it can also cause health problems from those who don’t smoke, but are near other people while they smoke. Consider these statistics about secondhand smoke:

  • an estimated 41,000 deaths are the result of secondhand smoke exposure
  • $5.6 billion a year (2006) in lost productivity due to exposure to secondhand smoke

It is estimated that 10% of all the deaths in the entire world are due to tobacco related disease, with an estimated 4 million deaths world-wide every year.

Worldwide, about 15 billion cigarettes are sold every day, which equates to roughly 10 million cigarettes every minute. Not only do about a third of all male adults smoke cigarettes, but an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 children start smoking every day.

While drugs like heroin and crystal meth are incredibly dangerous and addictive, they are actually not considered more addictive than nicotine, which has over a 30% addiction rate. This means that over 30% of individuals who use nicotine for a period of time will become addicted to the drug.

Considering the high number of users, widespread availability of the product, and the manner in which it is marketed to millions of young people, cigarettes can easily be construed as the most destructive and dangerous substance man has ever created.

What is Nicotine?

Nicotine is an alkaloid chemical compound that is naturally made by several types of plants, most notably, the tobacco plant. Nicotine is also produced synthetically.

It has long been rumored that the tobacco companies actually add extra nicotine additives into different areas of the cigarette including the dip casing, filter tip, as well as adding extra nicotine into the tobacco blend itself.

By doing so, cigarette companies can boost the dosage of nicotine in every cigarette and further increase the chances more people become addicted to their product.

Nicotine is also responsible for giving smokers that “rush” sensation that they experience within 10 seconds of taking a hit of a cigarette. However, this sensation only lasts for a brief period of time until the person has to light up and have another cigarette.

Tobacco as a Delivery Method

Tobacco is the primary nicotine delivery mechanism. It is a plant grown for its leaves, which are smoked, chewed, or sniffed.

    • Tobacco contains the chemical nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance.
    • Tobacco also contains more than 19 known chemicals that can cause cancer. As a group, these are called “tar.” More than 4,000 other chemicals can be found in tobacco.

Addictive Effects of Nicotine

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical compound that can affect the brain’s inner processes including making it produce an increased amount of the chemical dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. After so much dopamine is created in the brain, it will no longer produce the same amount naturally and the individual is likely to go through some type of withdrawal symptom.

Withdrawal symptoms can include depression, uncontrollable cravings, a sense of emptiness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, just to name a few.

Over time, this can lead to nicotine dependency which occurs when a person won’t feel the same levels of happiness and joy without regularly smoking cigarettes. The American Heart Association even goes so far as to say that nicotine is one of the hardest substances to quit, comparable to an addiction to heroin.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal appear within 2 to 3 hours after the last use of tobacco. For those trying to quit, symptoms will peak approximately 2 to 3 days later. Common symptoms include:

      • Intense craving for nicotine
      • Anxiety
      • Depression
      • Drowsiness or trouble sleeping
      • Bad dreams and nightmares
      • Feeling tense, restless, or frustrated
      • Headaches
      • Increased appetite and weight gain
      • Problems concentrating

Nicotine’s Effect on the Body

Nicotine itself has many adverse health effects including increased heart rate, increased heart muscle oxygen consumption and heart stroke volume rate. Nicotine also affects the pancreas, causing the body to produce less insulin, which can result in high blood sugar or glucose.

Regular consumption of nicotine increases a person’s nicotine tolerance level, which requires them to take higher doses of nicotine to enjoy the same initial effects.

Consuming nicotine also causes the body to release the hormone epinephrine, also known as the “fight or flight” hormone. Once epinephrine is activated in the sympathetic nervous system it makes the breathing become rapid and shallow, heart rate to increase, and a person’s blood pressure to rise.

Nicotine side fffects include:

  • Decreases the appetite
  • Boosts mood and may even relieve minor depression
  • Increases activity of the intestines
  • More saliva and phlegm
  • Increases heart rate
  • Increases blood pressure
  • May cause sweating, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Stimulates memory and alertness

Seeking Treatment

Because an addiction to nicotine is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, many people seek out expert help from drug rehab companies. This actually makes perfect sense because drug rehab treatment centers are the most qualified practitioners of addiction treatment and therapy, regardless of what the addiction is.

Secondly, because the relationship between the use of alcohol and tobacco has been widely established, many cigarette smokers may also be suffering from other substance abuse addictions. If you are trying to quit smoking cigarettes but haven’t found much success, you might want to seriously consider what a drug rehab company can do for you. Every 8 seconds someone dies in the United States due to cigarette use. Do not let yourself become just another statistic.

Resources to Help Quit Smoking

Nicotine Anonymous


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