What causes tobacco dependency and/or addiction?

Nicotine, along with other chemical compounds, is found in cigarettes, whether bought over the counter or roll-your-own, and in the tobacco used in pipe smoking. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and it plays a major part in altering brain chemistry, mainly dopamine and noradrenaline levels in the brain. When these chemical changes occur, mood and concentration levels change, and many smokers find this an enjoyable experience known as ‘nicotine rush’. It’s the ‘nicotine rush’ that creates the dependency and/or addiction. Using any amount of tobacco can lead quickly to nicotine dependence and have detrimental effects on the smoker’s health and well-being.

Symptoms of Smoking

Tobacco is known to have long-term health effects which get more serious the longer you continue to smoke. Globally, tobacco causes the greatest number of preventable deaths.

Some of the signs that you may have a dependency and/or addiction to nicotine are:

  • Attempts to Stop – you’ve made several serious attempts to stop smoking, but these have been unsuccessful, and you have gone back to the ‘habit’
  • Withdrawal symptoms – when you try to abstain from smoking or actually succeed in breaking the ‘habit’ you will experience physical and mood-related symptoms – strong cravings, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, increased hunger ‘munchies’, frustration, anger, lack of concentration, sleep disruption, constipation, diarrhoea
  • Health Problems – you may develop heart and lung problems but still can’t quit smoking. Other negative health effects are stroke, emphysema and hypertension, to name but a few. Mental health issues can also be exacerbated by smoking
  • Don’t socialise – you may stop going out because you can’t smoke in restaurants, bars, some public areas or friends and family don’t want smoke in their homes (passive smoking). You may become isolated and insular because of your habit

‘Prolonged and frequent use of tobacco products will almost always lead to early death. The British Heart Foundation has indicated that smoking-related diseases account for around 100,000 deaths each year in the UK. Most of these deaths arise from one of three diseases – lung cancer, chronic pulmonary disease (COPD) and coronary heart disease’

You may be one of the many smokers a year who’ve tried to stop smoking but haven’t succeeded. Don’t lose faith as many smokers make many attempts to stop before seeking help and achieving long-term abstinence. It’s not easy to stop the dependency and/or addiction but once you have stopped you will feel the benefits and be so happy that you have quit.

Nicotine cravings can be very strong and sheer willpower may not be enough. There is plenty of help available to help you to quit smoking for good:

  • See your Doctor who will be able to support you directly or refer you to a smoking cessation service
  • Stop Smoking Programs can provide treatments to help you stop smoking. These include nicotine patches, nicotine gum or even medical-based Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
  • Support groups are another avenue that can be explored to help you to stop and remain smoke-free
  • Hypnosis can help you to quit smoking. Like anything else, you must want to stop for it to be effective
  • Allen Carr’s ‘Easy Way to Stop Smoking’ is a best-selling book on how to stop smoking and there are many great reviews on how it has helped people to quit