Nicotine Addiction: Everything You Need to Know

January 20, 2022

4 mins

Dane O'Leary


Although tobacco use is on the decline, nicotine continues to be one of the top addictions worldwide. Whether or not you're prone to cigarette use, here's what you should know about nicotine addiction.

Although its usage has been declining globally, nicotine continues to be among the most common addictions globally. The fact that it becomes legally accessible to people once they turn 18 means that people can begin using tobacco products and experiencing the many negative effects associated with nicotine usage from a very young age.

Since nicotine remains a problem across the globe, we've put together this resource to give you all the information you could need on nicotine usage and addiction.

What is Nicotine Addiction?

Nicotine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the tobacco plant and is found in high quantities in cigarettes, chewing tobacco, vape pens, cigars, and pipe tobacco. When ingested, nicotine is highly addictive; nicotine causes users to physically and mentally crave the chemical. 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?

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. There are a variety of factors that go into how long your symptoms may last, such as 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?

Nicotine is a naturally occurring alkaloid, much like caffeine, and it 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?

There are almost 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco. Combined with nicotine, regular ingestion of tobacco products can 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?

The effects of quitting nicotine can be felt within minutes of putting down your last cigarette. Our team at Never Alone rehabs breaks down these milestones for you.

20 Minutes After 

Your blood pressure and heart rate will start to return to normal levels. Additionally, the fibers in your bronchial tubes will start to move again, which helps to remove bacteria and other irritants from your lungs. 

8 Hours After

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

24 Hours After

Now, you have significantly decreased your risk for a heart attack. The levels of nicotine in your blood are almost untraceable.

48 Hours After

Previously damaged nerve endings now start to regrow back. Your senses are also now improving, and you may notice that things taste and smell better than they were before. 

72 Hours After

You are starting to breathe better, and your lung capacity increases. 

Two Weeks After

You are now breathing better and walking better due to the increased levels of oxygen in your body. Your circulation is now much better, and your lung function increases about 30%.

One Month After

Chances are, you’ll notice a sense of heightened energy, less sinus congestion, and easier breathing during exercise. Fibers in the lungs are now growing back, which helps to reduce excess mucus and protect against infections.

Six Months After

Your airways are less inflamed, so you’ll notice less mucus and phlegm. Additionally, you may notice that it’s easier for you to cope with stressful situations. 

One Year After

Not smoking for a year will bring you dramatic health improvements for your overall functioning and lung capacity. It is easier to breathe, and you may experience less coughing and wheezing.

Three Years After

At this point, 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. From medications and cognitive behavioral therapy to attending an inpatient rehab and detox center, there is a treatment for you no matter your journey.  

At Never Alone Recovery, we work with detox professionals who can help create a customized nicotine treatment solution for you. Let Never Alone Recovery support services lead you down the path to healing, we are here for you.

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