Is Tobacco Addictive?

Is tobacco addictive? Tobacco is a substance that humans have used for as long as the public can remember. Learn more about tobacco here.

Table of Contents

What is Tobacco?

Tobacco comes from the leaves of the tobacco plant and has been used by humans throughout history. While initially used ceremonially, tobacco’s use case has adapted over time. Today, tobacco use is recreational, and the substance is the leading cause of preventable illnesses and death in America.1

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What Kind of Products Contain Tobacco?

Tobacco and nicotine can be found in many products. These products offer different concentrations of nicotine and can be smokeless. In addition to containing nicotine, many of these products also contain harmful additives that have their own negative side effects. Some commonly used products include:
  • Cigarettes 
  • Cigars
  • Nicotine Vapes
  • Chew 
  • Snuff
  • Hookah
  • Patches, gums, and lozenges

History of Tobacco

Tobacco was initially used by indigenous people ceremonially. It was brought to Europe by early colonizers, where it became popular among Europeans. From that point on, it was cultivated as a cash crop in different countries worldwide. By 1730, tobacco companies were opening up in America. By 1861, the first American cigarette factory opened its doors producing over 20 million cigarettes. Cigarettes were then popularized during both World War I and II. Cigarettes were often included in the rations provided to soldiers fighting in the war.
During the 1920s, cigarette companies shifted their focus to women. By producing cigarettes with feminine names and targeted advertising, companies were able to influence women to start smoking as well. Since then, the tobacco industry has spent billions of dollars on advertising to continue pushing their products, despite being faced with numerous lawsuits.

Tobacco Use and Effects

Tobacco is typically smoked or inhaled. There are ‘smokeless’ options, such as snuff and chew as well. Regardless of the way it is consumed, its effects are the same. This is because all of these products contain the chemical nicotine. Nicotine causes the release of dopamine, the body’s “feel good” chemical. This produces the calming effect many people experience when smoking a cigarette.2
Dopamine is a key player in our brain’s reward pathway. Because our brains and bodies seek out experiences that are seen as ‘rewarding’ (like smoking), habits and addiction can develop very quickly. It can also make you feel energized and reduce appetite, which is why many people use it.

Dangers and Side Effects of Tobacco Use

With tobacco use, there are also potential dangers and side effects. Every individual’s experience with tobacco is different, but it is important to be aware of the risks that follow when taking it. The information below goes over the possible short-term and long-term effects of tobacco.

Short-Term Effects

Just using tobacco for a short period can affect your health and wellness. Some of the short-term effects of use include:3
  • Bad breath 
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Increased inflammation
  • Feelings of fatigue
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Coughing and wheezing 
  • Weakened immune system

Long-Term Effects

There are also long-term effects of tobacco. These include:4
  • Stroke: Smoking increases a person’s risk for stroke 2 to 4 times.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Users are at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease. 
  • Lung Cancer: Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer and causes nine out of ten lung cancer-related deaths. 
  • Cancers of other organs: Tobacco use can lead to the development of cancer in any organ in the body. This is because tobacco use causes oxidative stress in the body, which leads to inflammation. Prolonged inflammation leads to cancer. 
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Not only does tobacco use lead to COPD, but 80% of COPD deaths are due to its use. 
  • Dental Problems: Tobacco use leads to tooth decay and gum disease. Around half of all adult periodontal disease diagnoses are due to smoking. Dry mouth and bad breath are also common. 
  • Cataracts: Nicotine use affects eyesight. Over time, this can lead to the development of cataracts. 
  • Type II Diabetes: Tobacco increases your risk of developing type two diabetes by 30-40%. Additionally, it can make it more difficult to manage diabetes for those who already have it.
  • Fertility Issues and Fetal Complications: Nicotine can lead to fertility issues for both men and women, as well as lead to fetal complications. Nicotine use affects sperm production and can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Additional Long-Term Implications of Tobacco Use

Smoking can also lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, which is a disorder affecting the immune system. It often attacks the joints. Tobacco addiction even leads to more deaths per year than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents, and firearm-related incidents combined. One in five deaths can be attributed to its use.
Additionally, for women, smoking while pregnant can lead to birth defects and deformities, as well as spontaneous miscarriage. Nicotine use while pregnant is also linked to neurobehavioral issues once the child is born, like Tourette’s, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and intellectual disability.5

Nicotine Addiction

Addiction can develop very quickly due to nicotine’s effects on dopamine and the brain’s reward system. Those who are addicted to nicotine typically use it daily, if not multiple times per day. Additionally, those who are addicted experience detox and withdrawal symptoms when cutting back or attempting to stop.

Detoxing from Nicotine

When someone who is addicted to nicotine stops using or cuts back on use, they experience detox symptoms. Detox is the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins that have built up from substance use. Detox symptoms set in within 24 hours of a person’s last use. These symptoms include:
  • Depression or low mood
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability, frustration, and anger
  • Anxiety 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Increases in appetite
  • Feeling lightheaded
These symptoms can vary in severity and be extremely disruptive to a person’s life.

How To Quit Nicotine?

Many people choose to quit nicotine by going cold turkey, but there are easier ways. Professional treatment is available for nicotine addiction. These treatment options will provide you with the support you need to kick nicotine to the curb for good and will even help manage withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment options for nicotine addiction include:
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy: This type of counseling uses patches, lozenges, and gum to replace nicotine in the body. This keeps withdrawal symptoms at a minimum. This also allows someone to taper off nicotine slowly with minimal complications.
  • Behavioral and Talk Counseling: Behavioral and talk counseling can help with stress management as well as provide skills to prevent relapse.
  • Medication: Medication is sometimes used to manage mental health symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

At-Home Strategies for Cravings

For those looking for a little more support at home, there are a few things you can do to help manage symptoms and cravings.
  • Exercise and healthy diet: Keeping your body in good shape can help stave off nicotine cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms.
  • Chewing Gum or Toothpicks: Sometimes using a toothpick or chewing gum can help beat cravings.
  • Talking to a friend or loved one: Taking some time to connect with friends and loved ones can help take your mind off of cravings.
  • Finding healthy ways to cope with stress: Stress and anxiety are major triggers for smoking. Finding new healthy ways to cope with stress can help you overcome cravings.

How Can Horizon Treatment Services Support You?

If you are looking for support throughout your mental health or substance use d journey, Horizon Treatment Services can help. We offer inpatient, outpatient, residential, and community support programs for people of all ages. 

Cherry Hill Detox and Palm Avenue both offer detox treatments that can help you or a loved one as you work to stay substance free in order to live a healthier life. 

We work hard to collaborate with you and your loved ones for the education and support you deserve. We will also create an individualized treatment plan that will address all of your symptoms and needs.

Call Horizon Treatment Services today for more information about our treatment programs.