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Nicotine Abuse

Nicotine is a Drug?


Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical found in the Nicotiana tabacum plant. In fact, it is one of the hardest habits to quit! Why? Because regular use of nicotine changes the structure and function of the brain. Once these changes take place, it gets harder and harder for you to quit.

In this article, we cover more about nicotine use and the side effects of regular drug use. Then, we help you identify ways to address a nicotine problem and quit once and for all. At the end, we welcome you to send us your questions and concerns via the comments section. In fact, we do our best to reply personally and promptly to our reader’s inquiries.

What Does Nicotine Abuse Look Like?

The cycle of nicotine abuse looks a little like this:

  • Use nicotine.
  • Feel good!
  • Repeat.
  • Need more nicotine to continue to feel good (over time).
  • Feel sick when not using nicotine.
  • Use nicotine again and again!

You see, the brain adapts to the presence of the drug. After a period of daily smoking for a few weeks, you begin to experience a constant need for dosing in order to feel normal. This is why quitting smoking is rarely a question of strength or character. Smoking becomes a physical necessity!

If you’re having difficulty to stay quit…it’s not a moral failing! Still, the abuse of nicotine can be helped with the right course of treatment.

REMEMBER THIS: Nicotine abuse is a medical condition. This is why it responds to medical treatment.


Wondering if you’ll ever be able to quit smoking for good?
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Live a life free of nicotine….TODAY!


How Is Nicotine Abused?

Nicotine is most commonly consumed via tobacco products, such as:

  • Chewing tobacco
  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Snuffing tobacco

It can also be found in several other products. People abuse the following products that are not tobacco-based, but still deliver nicotine to the body:

  • Electronic cigarette liquids
  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine patches
  • Nicotine lozenges
  • Nicotine nasal sprays

Although these products are used as agents that help people lower and eventually quit nicotine, they still deliver the drug to the brain. If not used as a part of a treatment plan or in combination with therapy, using any of these smoking cessation products still counts as drug abuse.

Why Do People Abuse Nicotine?

The effects that nicotine produces are the main reason why it is so hard for people to stop smoking or using other forms of nicotine once they start. People start taking nicotine by using tobacco products or several non-tobacco products out of different reasons:

  • Smoking makes people feel good and produces feelings of pleasure.
  • People use nicotine to deal with the stress, pressures, and problems in life.
  • Others start abusing nicotine due to the excitement of experimenting with something that is forbidden.
  • Many smokers start using nicotine as teens who like smoking because it’s ‘cool’.
  • Some people also use nicotine to control their weight, as smoking suppresses appetite.
  • People with friends and/or parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking themselves.
  • Some return to tobacco because nicotine causes a strong need for repeated use.

…and this list can go on!

Frankly, the reasons behind nicotine abuse differ by individual. The reasons why we seek drugs like nicotine are highly personal. In fact, drug use begins as a combination of both genetic and environmental causes.

Nicotine Abuse and the Brain

Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant. Although less potent than other stimulant drugs such as cocaine and meth, nicotine still increases levels of the chemical messenger “dopamine” in the brain. Dopamine affects parts of the brain that control reward and pleasure.

Signs of Nicotine Abuse

If a loved one is using smokeable tobacco products, then it’s easiest to detect nicotine abuse: clothes their, hair, and breath will smell of tobacco. Other obvious signs of nicotine abuse are behavioral. For example, a person will lose their appetite due to tobacco use, or will make frequent excuses to go out because tobacco’s effects wear off quickly.

Some signs that nicotine has become a real problem include:

  • Attempting to quit nicotine and not succeeding.
  • Building tolerance to the effects of nicotine .
  • Continuing nicotine use, despite being aware of negative consequences.
  • Craving smoking or smokeless nicotine products.
  • Experiencing nicotine withdrawal when you quit.
  • Missing important events if tobacco use is restricted.
  • Obtaining and using nicotine become an important part of a person’s life.

Recognize some of these signs of a nicotine problem in yourself or a loved one? Whatever difficulties you are facing with nicotine, know that it can be managed with treatment. For a more complete assessment, CALL 1-877-265-7020 to learn more about the signs and symptoms of nicotine abuse problem. We’re here to help!

Nicotine Abuse Risks and Side-effects

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking results in more than 443,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year, and an additional 8.6 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking.

Here is a list of possible side-effects people report from nicotine abuse:

Body: Lung cancer, cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, urethra, and bladder.

Cardiovascular: Increased clotting tendency, damaged blood vessels, increased blood pressure, and inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis).

Central nervous system: Headaches, dizziness, sleep problems, abnormal dreams, lightheadedness, and irritability.

Endocrine: Hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance.

Gastro-intestinal: Nausea, sore mouth and/or throat, mouth ulcers, stomach or gastrointestinal discomfort (dyspepsia), diarrhea, and heartburn.

Heart: Tachycardia, arrhythmia, coronary artery constriction, increase/decrease of heart rate, and palpitations.

Respiratory: Bronchospasm, pneumonia, shortness of breath, and cough.

But, nicotine abuse also includes smokeless tobacco products. In fact, abuse rates are steadily increasing as these products gain popularity. They can also affect the whole body, including vital organs.

Is It Possible To Overdose On Nicotine?

Yes, it is possible to OD on nicotine.

An overdose can be caused by smoking too much or by overusing products for nicotine replacement therapy. The symptoms of nicotine poisoning and overdose usually include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Hearing disturbances
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Salivating excessively

As the majority of nicotine poisoning cases happen when children (mainly under the age of 6) mistakenly reach for a pack of nicotine gum or liquid nicotine that their parents use in electronic cigarettes it is important to seek medical help ASAP.

Adult cases of nicotine poisoning are not impossible, but are far less likely to occur. In fact, to achieve a lethal dose from cigarettes a person would need to smoke about 40 cigarettes at once or chew about 15 pieces of nicotine gum at once. The exposure limit, however, depends on your general health state, body weight, and sensitivity to nicotine.

If you or someone you know may have consumed dangerous levels of nicotine, contact the National Poison Center Helpline at 1-800-222-1222 for information on what to do. If symptoms have already begun, Call 911.

Nicotine Abuse Treatment and Help


1.1. Non-nicotine medications

There are multiple medications that your doctor can prescribe to help you quit nicotine, lower your nicotine dependence, and prevent a relapse to using again. These medications DO NOT contain nicotine:

Bupropion – decreases craving for nicotine and helps you cope with depression.
Varenicline – helps with physical withdrawal symptoms.

1.2. Nicotine replacement therapy

Heavy smokers who smoke half a pack of cigarettes or more every day should look into replacement therapy options as a way to detox from nicotine. When used correctly, nicotine replacement can be very effective. These are products that provide low doses of nicotine to minimize cravings and help ease withdrawal symptoms.


2.1. Psychotherapy and counseling

Psychotherapy address the reasons WHY you use nicotine and offers you healthy alternatives. Counseling helps you deal with cravings and teaches you how to cope with life’s challenges…without using nicotine. However, the effectiveness of nicotine addiction treatment mainly depends on your willingness to see the challenges through. Counseling is best combined with nicotine replacement therapy as these two therapy approaches together can address the psychological and physical reasons behind nicotine abuse.

2.2. Other treatment approaches

There are a number of additional treatment modalities that have been effective in the treatment of nicotine abuse. Some of them include:

Contingency Management  – This treatment works under the belief that substance use is influenced by social, environmental, and biological factors…and addresses it as such.

Life Skills Development –These skills include training and education about maintaining physical health, creating a stable living environment, and learning tools for coping with stress and anger.

Education Sessions – Learning about the harmful effects of nicotine on your health can greatly contribute to raising your level of awareness, and motivate you to work on maintaining your nicotine-free life.

Nicotine Abuse Statistics

For more up-to-date statistics on nicotine abuse, explore the links below:

Nicotine Abuse Questions

If you have more questions to ask regarding nicotine abuse, risks and side effects, and treatment, please explore our website further. You can also post your comments and questions in the designated section below. We try to provide personal and prompt answers to all legitimate inquiries.

Reference Sources: MedlinePlus: Nicotine and tobacco
NIH: DrugFacts: Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products
NIH: Nicotine Addiction
CDC: Summary Health Statistics for U.S.Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2008
CDC: Vital Signs: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults Aged ≥18 Years — United States, 2005–2010
CDC: Current Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011
CDC: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults — United States, 2011

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