Nicotine Addiction Signs & Symptoms: What Are They?

Last Updated: December 18, 2019

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Nicotine is the addictive ingredient that one can find in tobacco, and that leads to tolerance and dependence. Unfortunately, nicotine is among the most abused substances, and the drug causes uncomfortable withdrawal, psychological dependence, and fatal diseases. Only in the U.S, it leads to 443,000 deaths each year.

Nicotine Addiction Signs & Symptoms Explained

If an individual lights a cigarette first thing in the morning, if they think that alcohol goes perfectly with tobacco, or if they feel the need to smoke while waiting for the bus or after sex, then it’s time to admit that a person has an addiction to nicotine.
a box of cigarettes
Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in tobacco. Tobacco is a highly abused substance that gives the user a kick of happiness as the drug causes the release of dopamine and adrenaline. From smoking to chewing, human beings since the beginning of time have known about tobacco. In the 20th century, it even became a sign of empowerment of women.
Good or bad, facts are undeniable. Figures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that in the U.S. more than 443,000 nicotine-related deaths happen every year.
So what are Nicotine addiction signs, are they as dangerous as any opiate or alcohol addiction?

  • If an individual has tried to quit, but failed
  • If an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms
  • If an individual smokes or chews tobacco in excess
  • If an individual inhales ‘aggressively’ and prefers ‘strong’ cigarettes
  • If an individual smokes or consume tobacco when feeling stressed or bored
  • If an individual continues smoking despite health problems or children around
  • If an individual avoids smoke-free places or social occasions that don’t involve smoking

Then it’s time to recognize the nicotine addiction. Unfortunately, 23.1% of men and 18.3% of women in America smoke.

Recognizing Nicotine Addiction Side Effects & Withdrawal

Smoking is addictive and leads to some uncomfortable side effects that can help one recognize nicotine addiction:

  • Coughing
  • Bad breath
  • Problems with the teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping disturbances
  • Yellow fingernails
  • Wrinkled skin

Withdrawal symptoms are a definite Nicotine addiction signs, and include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Aggression

However, the good news is that withdrawal is not lethal, and an individual can get rid of any annoying problems up to two weeks after cessation. So do not worry to put a bit of weight on because quitting can save a life.

The truth is that the psychological dependence is more problematic because many factors trigger smoking, cravings, and Nicotine relapse:

  • Individual differences
  • Mental illness
  • History of abuse
  • Genetic factors
  • Social pressure

Smoking is a behavior we learned: we smoke after a meeting, an important call, after being intimate, when we can’t sleep, when we wake up, with our coffee, on the way to work, in the car, after a nice meal, and the list goes on and on. Things can get even worse when we see someone smoking. It’s proven that cigarettes, as presented in films and shows, can trigger smoking.

Dangers of Nicotine Addiction & Why One Should Identify It ASAP

Apart from all the physical and psychological changes nicotine causes to the body and the mind, the long-term use of tobacco can result in fatal diseases:

  • Chronic lung diseases
  • Respiratory infections
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Insulin resistance
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Impotence and infertility

Smoking affects one’s skin and appearance and can lead to financial problems.
quit smoking
Smoking is not recommended when pregnant or breastfeeding. Okay, one cigarette will not affect a woman or a baby, but why taking the risk. Data shows that smoking during pregnancy can result in premature birth, a low weight of the baby and various health issues. Pregnancy can be stressful, but a mother can release the pressure by exercising or doing yoga instead. Also, let the morning sickness help: even the thought of smoking could make one feel sick.
Identifying nicotine addiction is important. Data shows that 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking early in life (by the age of 18). So if a person identifies it as soon as possible in teens, for example, one could prevent any further health complications that can affect the same users as adults.

How To Tell If A Loved One Has An Addiction To Nicotine And Needs Help?

It’s easy to spot when someone smokes – bad breath, smelly clothes, and stuffy room. It’s not more complicated to tell when a loved one has Nicotine addiction signs:

  • Coughing all the time
  • Yellow fingernails
  • Weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Avoiding smoke-free places
  • Surrounding themselves with other smokers
  • Obsession with tobacco products
  • Financial issues due to tobacco use

Nicotine Addiction: Treatment & Outlook

Nicotine addiction is characterized by high rates of relapse. However, stay positive. Many products can help an individual quit.
Nicotine replacement therapy is beneficial in severe cases of addiction: patches, sprays, gums and lozenges, an individual can choose what works for them. A person can also apply other drugs such as antidepressants.
However, one of the best ways is to find psychological help: from individual counseling through support groups to online hotlines.

  • Start a healthy diet
  • Exercise frequently (walking has proven to be helpful, especially in teens)
  • Deep breathing techniques
  • Avoid places, activities or people that remind of smoking
  • Indulge in hobbies that reduce anxiety
  • Have a to-do list and treat when one succeeds
  • Try to delay smoking (at least with 10 minutes) because cravings come and go

Most of all, stay positive.
Nicotine addiction is hard to overcome, but believe that this can be a last puff.

Page Sources

  1. Is nicotine addictive? National Institute On Drug Abuse.
  2. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2014.
  3. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 1997-2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2017.
  4. National Cancer Institute. Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit. National Cancer Institute.

Published on: May 3rd, 2017

Updated on: December 18th, 2019

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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