Nicotine addiction is a physical reaction of the body to repeated doses of nicotine. It can also be seen as an emotional reaction that builds up over time in relation to using the products that contain nicotine. A person with a nicotine addiction may have a nearly uncontrollable urge to use products that contain nicotine, and that need can come from both emotional and physiological processes. Nicotine addiction is comparable to many other serious addictions when it comes to severity and difficulty in quitting.
The mechanism behind physical addiction to nicotine is based on chemicals released in the brain. When someone uses a nicotine product, like a cigarette, for example, it causes a person's body to release many brain chemicals, including one called dopamine. This chemical can create feelings of euphoria in heavy doses. Many other drugs cause a release of dopamine, including cocaine. The brain can become dependent on dopamine, and eventually, there is a mental association made between dopamine and the nicotine product, which often eventually leads to a physical addiction.
When people suffer from this kind of addiction, their brains start producing a smaller level of dopamine on a regular basis, so when they don’t have the nicotine product, they will often feel bad. They may feel angry or depressed or nervous, and they may even lash out at people around them. When they take the nicotine product, their dopamine levels are generally raised, but only enough to reach a normal level. This basically means that over time, nicotine addiction makes someone feel chronically negative, and the only way to reach normality is with the nicotine. This level of addiction happens gradually enough so that the smoker may not even be aware of the effect.
There is also a purely psychological level to nicotine addiction. People don’t only become addicted on a chemical level. They also become dependent on the act of taking the nicotine. For example, smokers often associate smoking with many normal daily behaviors, like watching television or reading. When they quit, they may feel like all their activities are missing something, and they may have difficulty enjoying things for a while.
There are many approaches to dealing with nicotine addiction. Some people simply stop using nicotine products and try to deal with the withdrawal. This can be quite difficult, and some people can’t handle it. There are also drugs designed to lessen nicotine cravings, and there are products such as patches that make it easier to wean the body off from nicotine.