Nicotine Addiction: Signs and Treatment

Nicotine Addiction: Signs and Treatment

Nicotine is a psychoactive substance, meaning it can influence a person's psychoemotional state.

When introduced into the body through tobacco smoke, nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream and reaches the brain within 7-10 seconds. Here, it binds to nicotine receptors in neurons that contain acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter or nerve impulse transmitter.

Nicotine acts like acetylcholine, prompting the brain receptors to release "pleasure hormones" and stimulants such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and glutamate. Consequently, smoking brings pleasure to the smoker, induces emotional improvement, suppresses hunger, and increases cardiovascular system activity.

However, simultaneously, the process of developing tobacco dependence takes place. 

Psychological Dependence 

Often, individuals cease to notice the act of smoking and the quantity of cigarettes consumed but continue to smoke.

This is because habitual patterns and so-called "smoking rituals" develop over time. Through these rituals, a person tries to cope with stress, fatigue, or simply smokes when bored.

This establishes specific behavior, gradually reinforcing the habit of smoking.

Physical Dependence 

Physical dependence on cigarettes is related to the adaptation of the central nervous system to smoking. After smoking a cigarette, a person may notice a decreased desire to smoke without understanding what is happening in the brain. 

In the case of physical dependence, resistance to nicotine is formed, resulting in the absence of euphoria and relaxation after smoking. Consequently, individuals gradually increase the number of cigarettes smoked each day, developing habits such as smoking immediately upon waking, on an empty stomach, or after meals. The intervals between smoking cigarettes decrease to 1-2 hours.

The following symptoms may arise: 

  •  Uncontrollable craving to smoke

  •  Feelings of fear and anxiety 

  •  High irritability 

  •  Headaches

  •  Difficulty concentrating 

  •  Increased appetite 

Genetic predisposition is also noteworthy. 

Genes carry an inherited "susceptibility" linked to neurotransmitter dysfunction in the brain, which underlies various addictions, including tobacco. 

It is estimated that in about 50% of cases, genetic factors may contribute to the development of dependence. 

Treatment of Tobacco Dependence

Behavioral therapy involves combating harmful habits and developing new beneficial skills.

Medication-based therapy is recommended for all smokers with moderate and severe tobacco dependence. Its goal is to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapses, and discourage re-smoking. 

When seeking help from a specialist to overcome nicotine dependence, the doctor determines the severity of the condition based on the manifested symptoms. The more accustomed a person is to tobacco, the longer the treatment and the higher the risk of seizures. 

To eliminate signs of dependence, it is recommended to consult a doctor. Without specialized medical assistance, only 5% of people manage to break the harmful habit, while with specialized treatment, 25% achieve remission for 3 years or more. 

Treatment includes nicotine replacement therapy, using various forms of anti-smoking medications:

  •  Nicotine patches 

  •  Chewing gum

  •  Oral spray 

Cognitive psychotherapy is part of the medical program, helping individuals understand the reasons for smoking, teaching them how to react to pathological cravings, and avoiding situations that may trigger the desire to smoke.

Therefore, effective treatment requires a psychologically correct approach, collaboration with a good specialist, and support from family members.