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Nicotine Addiction and Abuse

A nicotine addiction is one of the hardest addictions to break, yet over 1 million tobacco users quit every year.

Understanding Nicotine

Nicotine-CigaretteNicotine is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco products. There are approximately 50 million people in America who are addicted to some type of tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff.

Nicotine addiction is the most common addiction in America. Conservative estimates put societal costs (healthcare expenses and lost productivity) of nicotine addiction in the U.S. at approximately $193 billion a year.

Millions of people make the choice to quit every year. Having the desire to quit using tobacco is the first and most important step toward recovery. Take the next steps to kick your nicotine addiction.

Nicotine Effects and Abuse

Nicotine abuse is unique because the drug’s intoxicating effects are less intense than most other substances. Although it is a stimulant, nicotine doesn’t produce the high levels of energy or euphoria that drugs like cocaine do. Nicotine does, however, stimulate adrenal glands, which causes a rise in blood pressure and respiration.

Most people pick up nicotine products based on a cultural perception that it is cool. Studies have shown that teens who see actors smoking in movies are more likely to pick up the habit. Most people who use tobacco started in their teens.

Of those who smoke, 90 percent started by the age of 18.

A Surgeon General's Report in 2012

For those who started smoking at a young age, quitting later in life can be even harder.

Addiction to Nicotine

Almost everyone who smokes or uses tobacco can remember how their addiction started and how they never intended to become addicted.

Because addiction changes the biochemical makeup of the brain, it becomes harder to quit the earlier a person starts using. Young people are more susceptible to forming an addiction. This is because addictive substances like tobacco activate the brain reward system, which is still developing in teens. This part of the brain plays a huge role in the production of memories and addictive behavior.

People addicted to tobacco products have a physical desire to continue using tobacco, but they also have a psychological desire because of memories associated with using. These memories trigger the urge to use tobacco. Triggers can be anything from music to certain people or places.

However, most people with an addiction to nicotine are aware of the harm tobacco causes, yet they continue to use the substance. This abusive behavior is characteristic of addiction.

Less Teens Are Picking Up Tobacco

Less people are smoking these days because an increasing number of teens aren’t picking up tobacco. Teens educated about the health risks involved often won’t pick up tobacco in the first place.

Those in the 12 to 17 age group have some of the lowest rates of smoking compared to other demographics. These rates have decreased by over 5 percent since 2002. Unfortunately, the rates of tobacco use in the 18 to 25 age group makes up some of the highest rates of use. The good news is that it’s easier to quit tobacco the earlier a person decides to.

No matter how long a person has been addicted to tobacco, quitting is absolutely possible and has tangible health and financial benefits. Get the tools to end your addiction now.

Nicotine and Other Drugs

Because nicotine use is so prevalent, many smokers also abuse other drugs alongside of it. Alcohol is the most common drug used alongside nicotine, and can also be an obstacle to overcoming nicotine use. Those who are used to smoking a cigarette when they’re drinking will have a mental connection between the two. Quitting smoking can be much more difficult when continuing to drink.

Nicotine is also often abused with other stimulants, such as cocaine. Using both together can amplify their effects. Nicotine may also be a gateway into illicit stimulants.

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Nicotine Statistics of Abuse

Knowing the statistics about tobacco addiction can provide motivation to quit smoking and also to stay in recovery. The health risks of using tobacco are severe. But quitting, no matter how long you have been using tobacco, significantly reduces your odds of having tobacco-related health issues.

14years less

On average, smokers live 14 years less than nonsmokers.


Nearly a half-million Americans die from tobacco each year.

12-23times higher

Women who smoke increase their risk of lung cancer 13 times, while men who smoke increase their risk of lung cancer 23 times.

Find Help for a Nicotine Addiction

Whether you are struggling with a nicotine addiction on its own or as part of a patchwork of addiction and drug abuse, there are many treatment options available to help you overcome. Outpatient medical programs can help with nicotine abuse, and inpatient rehabs are effective for targeting the underlying reasons for abuse. Get in touch with us now to learn your options.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: January 21, 2016

  1. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  2. American Cancer Society. (2014). Questions About Smoking, Tobacco, and Health. Retrieved on February 12, 2014, from:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Retrieved on February 12, 2014, from:
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2014). Nicotine dependence. Retrieved on February 12, 2014, from:
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