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Addiction, Mental Health, Substance Abuse

Nicotine Dependency

What is Nicotine and How does it Interact with your Body?

Nicotine is a chemical substance found in tobacco. Consuming nicotine in the form of inhalation delivers nicotine directly to your lungs and blood stream. Within seconds of inhalation it makes its way into your brain. Chemical neurotransmitters are released regulating your mood and behavior. Nicotine affects the normal function of the neurotransmitters in your body.

The transmitter Dopamine is released in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) or the “reward center” of the brain. With time and continuous consumption the amount of nicotine receptors in the brain increases effectively changing the brain’s anatomy. In a simple explanation, this reaction trains the brain to recognize the chemical nicotine as desirable. This makes the body crave to recreate that pleasurable feeling again and again. Things like daily activities, behaviors, moods, and feelings of pleasure or stress can also contribute to nicotine dependency. In other words when, consuming tobacco after a meal, talking on the phone, when drinking alcohol, or during stressful situations it can help establish patterns that trigger cravings for tobacco in the future. You may think that nicotine addiction is not as harmful or destructive as cocaine but the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are similar to those of amphetamine and cocaine dependents.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Nicotine Dependency:

How can you recognize signs of nicotine dependency? For instance when you are incapable of stopping your smoking/chewing/vaping habits, when you try to stop you experience withdrawal symptoms such as; strong cravings, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, depressed moods, frustration, anger, increased hunger, insomnia, constipation, or diarrhea. If you have developed health problems associated with your heart or lungs are unable to stop. If you change your social activities to avoid family and friends who do not allow or approve of your tobacco consumption.

Treatment Options

In conclusion, nicotine dependency for the most part requires multiple attempts to quit permanently. There are multiple treatments available such as: medications like bupropion an antidepressants that helps reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline is a medication that helps reduce nicotine cravings. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can be prescribed in combination with other medications to help with the early stages of quitting. Behavioral treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), mindfulness, telephone support and quit-lines, text messaging, web-based services, and social media support. For more information about our clinics options, follow the link. Research shows that tobacco dependent people who quit using a combination of behavioral and medication treatments successfully quit at a higher rate than those who do not. For additional information on nicotine dependency click here. 

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