Nicotine Addiction (Nicotine Dependence)

Nicotine addiction or nicotine dependence is both a physical and mental illness that can theoretically affect anyone if they start smoking. Unfortunately, there are also more and more people who become addicted to nicotine through passive smoking and ultimately start smoking themselves. Getting rid of nicotine addiction is not an easy task and should therefore be accompanied medically by a doctor. Despite all this: Anyone can manage to stop smoking!

Nicotine Addiction (Nicotine Dependence)

What is Nicotine Addiction (Nicotine Dependence)?

Nicotine addiction is a physical or psychological dependence on nicotine, a substance found in the tobacco plant. Often just a few cigarettes are enough to get addicted to nicotine. See etaizhou for What does NMO Mean.

Those addicted to nicotine experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not receive their daily dose of nicotine and often try to quit smoking without success. Unlike many other drugs, nicotine does not cause personality changes. In most cases, nicotine addiction combines physical and psychological dependence.


A physical nicotine addiction develops because nicotine enters the blood via the lungs or the mucous membranes of the mouth and from there into the brain. Unlike many other toxins, nicotine can cross the blood-brain barrier. Just a few seconds after the nerve toxin has been absorbed, it reaches the nerve cells in the brain and influences their activity there.

Nicotine causes the brain z. B. to release various messenger substances such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, all of which interact with the reward system in the brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that nicotine addiction occurs very early. The nicotine consumption leads to a pleasant feeling and provides z. B. in a stressful situation that the person becomes calmer again. It can temporarily lead to increased alertness and learning ability.

Psychological dependence on nicotine occurs when the consumer experiences positive effects from nicotine intake in certain situations. Again, the reward center plays an important role in nicotine addiction. Nicotine brings inner peace and contentment. If the consumer finds himself in a similar situation again, he will turn to nicotine again to produce the same effect as the first time. In this way he falls into a psychological nicotine addiction after a short time.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Nicotine addiction can be identified by different symptoms. These are consistent with the symptoms of other addictions. Symptoms of nicotine addiction primarily include cravings for tobacco products and the willingness to continue using tobacco despite the health consequences.

Addiction is ultimately defined as having withdrawal symptoms when you stop using nicotine. In addition, most people tend to develop a tolerance and need to increase the amount of nicotine consumed to experience the same effect.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine addiction are most severe during the first two or three days of withdrawal. Depressive mood, irritability and sleep problems are the main symptoms. Some people also experience digestive changes and increased appetite as a result of withdrawal.

The pulse can be slowed down and the ability to concentrate decreases. Most people who quit smoking experience a small or moderate increase in body weight. The psychological and vegetative symptoms usually subside after a few days or weeks. For many of those affected, weeks and months later, there is still a strong desire to supply the body with nicotine. This craving can be particularly strong when the situation is stressful or the person has consumed alcohol.

course of the disease

Nicotine addiction is caused by the special effects of nicotine on the human brain. It sets in for most sufferers of nicotine addiction after just a few cigarettes. In many cases, over time, users use higher and higher amounts of the neurotoxin or smoke more frequently in order to achieve the same pleasant effect as at the beginning of the nicotine addiction.

After a short time without nicotine, the first withdrawal symptoms such as inner restlessness, irritability or occasional headaches appear in nicotine addiction, which make the addict reach for a cigarette again. It is therefore very difficult to break free from a nicotine addiction.


A large proportion of smokers develop a nicotine addiction. This is the case if more than three of the following six criteria are met: compulsion to consume, lack of/little control of smoking behavior, widening tolerance limits, putting other interests aside in favor of cigarette consumption, continued consumption despite existing physical/mental consequential damage, physical withdrawal symptoms such as aggressiveness, Irritability, difficulty concentrating.

Already early in the morning – usually before breakfast – the first cigarette is due; daily consumption increases. A self-directed attempt to reduce or quit smoking often leads to sleep disturbances, irritability, aggressiveness, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, increased appetite and weight gain.

Smoking leads to damage/disorders of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems (smoker’s leg), in the brain, the bones/joints, the eyes, the skin, the oral flora, the immune system, the metabolism, wound healing, in the fertility and possibly causes Malformations and miscarriages (increased risk). The permanent damage restricts the quality of life even after a successful weaning. However, some may progressively improve.

The weaning itself often takes several attempts before it is possibly successful. Finally, psychological dependence also plays an immensely important role. Numerous smoking cessation programs and offers do not save you from persevering. Depending on the intensity of the dependency, the consequences will be felt for many years to come. Nicotine itself is broken down by the liver within a few days.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you have a nicotine addiction, you do not necessarily have to go to the doctor immediately. Many people who want to quit smoking do so without the support of a doctor. However, a doctor can provide information about the risks of smoking and thus serve as a motivator. In addition, as part of a comprehensive physical examination, it can be determined which physical damage has already been caused by cigarette consumption. The lungs and blood vessels in particular must be checked so that any diseases can be treated.

If the nicotine addiction has already caused significant physical problems, a doctor must be consulted immediately. Depending on the type of complaints, other specialists such as the pneumologist or the gastroenterologist can be consultedto be consulted. Accompanying the treatment of the physical ailments, a therapeutic consultation is useful. If the patient wants to give up smoking, self-help groups and addiction counselors should also be involved in the therapy. Anyone who has already had several withdrawals and relapses should see a doctor and pharmacist. On the one hand, experts can help with practical tips and recommend smoking cessation programs. On the other hand, the doctor can prescribe nicotine patches or similar preparations that make it easier to stop smoking. During withdrawal, the doctor should be contacted regularly, especially in the case of severe withdrawal symptoms such as tachycardia or migraines.

Treatment & Therapy

There are several treatment approaches for nicotine addiction. The most promising method of treating nicotine addiction is behavioral therapy combined with aids such as nicotine gum or nicotine patches to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Self-help groups can also help many sufferers on their way out of nicotine addiction because they offer a certain amount of control.

It is important that the group is led by a knowledgeable and trained person. Hypnotherapy also offers a way out of nicotine addiction, but it does not work for everyone affected. Many other forms of therapy help some people. However, the number of successful treatments is not sufficient to prove an effect.

Instead, the treatment successes can also be attributed to the placebo effect. These forms of therapy for nicotine addiction include switching to herbal teas, aversion therapy or acupuncture. Even after initially successful treatment, many sufferers relapse again.


Many nicotine addicts take both nicotine cessation and subsequent aftercare into their own hands. The key challenge in follow-up is often resisting the temptation to relapse. When nicotine addicts return to cigarettes and other nicotine-containing substances, stress, social pressure and motivational problems often play a role. Since relapses are common, especially among younger smokers, nicotine addicts should be aware of this risk.

Special psychological programs designed to help cigarette addicts stop smoking therefore often end with a maintenance or stabilization phase. In this phase, nicotine addicts develop strategies for dealing better with stress, for example. They can also think about what support they can get from friends, family members, co-workers and others when they are at risk of recidivism – or how they can make their environment non-smoking more generally to reduce the temptation.

During aftercare, ex-smokers often observe themselves very closely in order to identify an imminent relapse as early as possible. If they then perceive corresponding signs, they try to counteract them with the help of the strategies they have developed, for example with relaxation techniques. A relapse can still occur. In such a case, nicotine addicts should question themselves why they could not stand firm and what they could do better next time in such a situation.

Outlook & Forecast

In the case of nicotine dependence, the further course of the disease depends to a large extent on the cooperation of the patient. His will and his assertiveness as well as the willingness to change his lifestyle are decisive in overcoming the illness. Many sufferers do not need a doctor’s consultation to stop nicotine use.

However, it can be felt to be helpful and quite beneficial if cooperation with a doctor or a psychotherapist is sought. These support the person concerned on a physical as well as mental level and provide feedback on the current state of health. Most nicotine addicts are aware of the physical harm and health consequences. Despite everything, they often need an incentive to successfully cope with the nicotine addiction.

A particularly favorable prognosis is given to those affected who refrain from active and passive consumption of nicotine for several years. The body’s own regeneration process means that after just five years the lungs are back to normal health and life expectancy is therefore average.

An unfavorable course of the disease means that the person concerned cannot cope with the nicotine addiction and thus increases the risk of secondary diseases. It can lead to cancer, which poses a potential threat to human life.

You can do that yourself

Self-help for nicotine withdrawal often goes hand-in-hand with treatment. The actual withdrawal does not carry the same risk as with other substance addictions, although it is perceived as unpleasant. Many smokers therefore do not seek treatment, but rely entirely on self-help.

Not every smoker is able to completely control their nicotine cravings right away. In this case, the person concerned should at least try to reduce the amount. A typical stumbling block are stressful situations. Here it is important to remain steadfast and not give in to desire.

Some smokers initially switch to e-cigarettes with liquids containing nicotine. This does not combat the actual nicotine addiction. However, other aspects of health may benefit, particularly lung health.

Motivation plays an important role in quitting smoking. To work on motivation, the addict can write down their personal reasons on a piece of paper. He then hangs this note in a visible place – for example above the desk or on the edge of a mirror. The motivation list can be supplemented later. Negatively worded goals are often less favourable, which is why positive reasons also belong on the list. In addition, the personal motives should be formulated as specifically as possible.