(Tobacco Use Disorder; Smoking Addiction)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Nicotine addiction is a dependence on nicotine when it is used regularly. Nicotine can be found in tobacco products, such as:
Nicotine acts on the brain's chemistry. It creates feelings of pleasure. These feelings go away within a few minutes. People will need to keep using nicotine to feel this way again. This cycle can lead to addiction.
Use of nicotine products is the main risk factor.
The risk of addiction increases with:
Symptoms only happen when nicotine is not being used. This is known as withdrawal. Symptoms are:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your history of using tobacco products. A physical exam will be done.
A blood test can check cotinine level in your saliva or blood. This will show changes in nicotine use. The doctor may use it to check your progress.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may involve 1 or more therapies. Options include:
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
NRT relieves withdrawal symptoms. NRT products include:
The chance of becoming dependent on these products is low. NRT does not create the same "feel good" feelings as nicotine.
NRT may help you to:
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) turn liquid nicotine into a vapor. There is conflicting evidence on whether or not they may help you quit. In addition, the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are not known.
Behavioral therapies include:
Medicine that may help you quit include:
Other medicine may help ease withdrawal symptoms. A third type may be used if you start smoking again. It blocks the pleasure feeling when you use nicotine.
The best prevention is to never use tobacco products. Try to avoid places where people are smoking as well.
American Cancer Society
Freedom From Smoking—American Lung Association
Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association
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Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 2/19/2021