Nicotine Dependence

Nicotine Dependence

Nicotine Dependence

NNicotine is a widely used stimulant that has psychoactive properties. Once nicotine enters the bloodstream, it is transported to the brain, where it binds to receptors that increase the levels of several neurotransmitters— such as dopamine — which activate the reward system. These actions are largely responsible for the strongly reinforcing and highly addictive effects of nicotine.

Prevalence

There are approximately one billion people in the world who smoke tobacco of which nicotine is a constituent. It is estimated that half of smokers (and one-third of former smokers) are dependent on nicotine. Recent US data suggests that the rates of daily smoking and the number of cigarettes smoked per day are declining. Some people groups are more likely to smoke than the average population, such as those with low education or low socioeconomic status and those with mental illness. Rates in these groups are stable or increasing. Men smoke at higher rates than do women and score higher on dependence criteria.

Symptoms of Nicotine Dependence:

Nicotine dependence is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by:

  • A compulsive craving to use the drug despite harmful effects
  • An inability to control drug use or quit
  • Onset of withdrawal-like symptoms such as depressed mood, irritability and anger, strong cravings, restlessness, hunger, constipation or diarrhea, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances when the drug is discontinued
  • Increasing doses to achieve a desired “hit”
  • Avoiding any social gathering when smoking is not allowed

After cessation of drug use, there is a strong tendency to relapse.

Cause of nicotine dependence:

The exact cause of nicotine dependence is not fully understood, but genetic and environmental factors have both been implicated. Cultural habits have in some ways trained people to think that smoking is enjoyable and necessary during certain events like drinking alcohol, driving, or taking work breaks. People more likely to smoke are those whose peers or parents smoke, those who already abuse alcohol and other drugs, and those who have depression, PTSD, or other forms of mental illness.

Risk factors for Nicotine Dependence

Experts argue that it is the other constituents of tobacco that are carcinogenic, not nicotine. Since nicotine dependence can lead to heavy smoking, people with this condition are at increased risk of developing:

  • Lung and other types of cancer
  • Cardiovascular conditions – high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, ischemic heart disease
  • Cerebrovascular conditions – strokes and transient ischemic attacks or “mini-strokes”
  • Susceptibility to lung infections
  • Reduced fertility in women and impotence in men
  • Higher change of a preterm or underweight baby
  • Gum infections
  • Eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Diabetes – due to increased insulin resistance

Nicotine Dependence treatment

Treatment options for nicotine dependence include a combination of medication and psychosocial interventions, which has been shown to be highly effective.

  • Medication – Nicotine withdrawal is the main factor that stops people from quitting. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is used to treat the withdrawal symptoms in those who are attempting to quit cigarette smoking. NRT can come in different forms such as gum, lozenge, transdermal patch, nasal spray, and inhaler. These medications have been shown to significantly improve long-term abstinence rates.
  • Therapy – a tobacco treatment specialist can give the best help.
  • Psychosocial interventions – delivered individually, in a group, or over the phone — are effective in the treatment of nicotine dependence. These interventions focus on providing support for quitting and helping smokers with problem-solving and developing helpful responses for coping with cravings, low mood, and other triggers and/or situations that usually lead to relapse.
 

Symptoms of Nicotine Dependence:

Nicotine dependence is a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by:

  • A compulsive craving to use the drug despite harmful effects
  • An inability to control drug use or quit
  • Onset of withdrawal-like symptoms such as depressed mood, irritability and anger, strong cravings, restlessness, hunger, constipation or diarrhea, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances when the drug is discontinued
  • Increasing doses to achieve a desired “hit”
  • Avoiding any social gathering when smoking is not allowed

After cessation of drug use, there is a strong tendency to relapse.

 

Causes of Nicotine Dependence:

The exact cause of nicotine dependence is not fully understood, but genetic and environmental factors have both been implicated. Cultural habits have in some ways trained people to think that smoking is enjoyable and necessary during certain events like drinking alcohol, driving, or taking work breaks. People more likely to smoke are those whose peers or parents smoke, those who already abuse alcohol and other drugs, and those who have depression, PTSD, or other forms of mental illness.

 

Risks of Nicotine Dependence:

Experts argue that it is the other constituents of tobacco that are carcinogenic, not nicotine. Since nicotine dependence can lead to heavy smoking, people with this condition are at increased risk of developing:

  • Lung and other types of cancer
  • Cardiovascular conditions – high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, ischemic heart disease
  • Cerebrovascular conditions – strokes and transient ischemic attacks or “mini-strokes”
  • Susceptibility to lung infections
  • Reduced fertility in women and impotence in men
  • Higher change of a preterm or underweight baby
  • Gum infections
  • Eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Diabetes – due to increased insulin resistance

.

 

Nicotine Dependence treatment

Treatment options for nicotine dependence include a combination of medication and psychosocial interventions, which has been shown to be highly effective.

  • Medication – Nicotine withdrawal is the main factor that stops people from quitting. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is used to treat the withdrawal symptoms in those who are attempting to quit cigarette smoking. NRT can come in different forms such as gum, lozenge, transdermal patch, nasal spray, and inhaler. These medications have been shown to significantly improve long-term abstinence rates.
  • Therapy – a tobacco treatment specialist can give the best help.
  • Psychosocial interventions – delivered individually, in a group, or over the phone — are effective in the treatment of nicotine dependence. These interventions focus on providing support for quitting and helping smokers with problem-solving and developing helpful responses for coping with cravings, low mood, and other triggers and/or situations that usually lead to relapse.
Sources MAYOCLINIC – Nicotine Dependence Symptoms