Do you think you have a nicotine addiction? This has been a controversial question for a long time. Is nicotine really addicting? Many of the professionals who work with addicts believe so. It really makes no difference how you or anyone else describes your use of tobacco products. If you have been smoking for any great length of time you may have come around to the idea that you are addicted to nicotine. Nicotine addiction may be the hardest addiction you will have to overcome.

Interestingly enough researchers have found over 4,000 chemicals in the smoke of tobacco products. Nicotine has been identified as the primary addiction reinforcing factor. There are several ways this drug can enter your body with smoking as its primary source. As you continue smoking throughout the day, the depletion of nicotine tells your brain, in the initial stages, that it is time to smoke again.

Nicotine is a colorless, odorless, organic-based alkaloid in the same family as cocaine, morphine, quinine and strychnine. It is classified as a super-toxin. A recent study suggests that it gradually destroys brain gray matter. A drop of pure nicotine has been proven to be more deadly than arsenic, strychnine or a diamond back rattlesnake's venom. Although heroin produces a numb dopamine high, some government experts tell us that nicotine's alert dopamine high may be effective at establishing chemical dependency.

For most people the development of nicotine dependence is a gradual process, although some have said they have been addicted since they first started smoking. The addiction process is encouraged by the unnatural feelings of pleasure and well-being due to the presence of nicotine in your system. Nicotine stimulates the dopamine receptors in your brain.

Think about when you started smoking. Many, many adults started smoking cigarettes prior to the age of 15. As they left adolescence and grew into adulthood the addictive stages of nicotine began to become harder and harder to stop or avoid. Whether nicotine dependency was established and/or maintained by being smoked, chewed, inhaled, drunk, sprayed, swallowed, sucked, licked or patched, in the end there is only one way out: don't take any more nicotine into your body.

The term addict was coined by the American Psychological Association so they and others could justify allowing government funding to the quit smoking programs they use. And they are still developing the term. Whatever term you use, or feel comfortable with, the real issue is, and always will be, chemical dependence.

So now the real question is: Are you or are you not dependent on nicotine? This is really controversial because many of you will say yes and many of you will say no. The battles over nicotine dependence will continue; privately and publicly. You are the one that must decide for yourself. Do you have this little battle going on in your head? Do you think you are addicted or do you just like to smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products? Can you stop using them or must you continue to use them, regardless of your needs or wants? If you are really thinking of quitting smoking or using other tobacco products you must educate yourself about the process.

The process of your addiction, should you think you have one, starts out usually by someone offering you a cigarette or your curiosity about them. There could be peer pressure or others factors involved such as stress or anxiety. From that point on you will either like your new found feelings or discontinue smoking. The newly initiated may continue smoking and then possibly experiment with other types of tobacco products. The dependence may develop into multiple packs of usage per day of smoking by some.

I used the term addiction earlier. Addiction is partially characterized by: compulsive drug seeking and use, regardless of the negative consequences to health. Tobacco addiction is in your mind as well as your body. Most professionals will tell you that once you stop ingesting nicotine it will leave your body in approximately 10 days. What keeps a person smoking or using other tobacco products is the psychological, physical and emotional cravings, as well as the habits you have built up over the years you have been smoking.

As stated earlier, nicotine dependence occurs with repeated tobacco use and has cognitive, biological, and behavioral effects as identified by the American Psychological Association. The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual, current edition, provides diagnostic criteria for nicotine dependence and that includes three or more of the following for the diagnosis:

  1. Tolerance: For tobacco, tolerance manifests as the most intense experience coming from the first cigarette of the day and the absence of nausea and dizziness with repeated use, despite high levels of nicotine. Also, smokers require more cigarettes with time.

  2. Withdrawal: Withdrawal consists of unpleasant symptoms that cause significant psychological and physical distress when stopping or reducing intake of nicotine. The dependent individual uses tobacco to avoid these symptoms.

  3. Using up supplies: Using up one's supply of nicotine faster than intended.

  4. Unsuccessful quit attempts: Repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down.

  5. Time spent smoking: Lots of time devoted to use and compulsive use, with some smokers chain smoking one cigarette after another.

  6. Effects on daily life: Revolving daily activities around the substance and avoiding activities where tobacco use is prohibited.

  7. Use despite potential or actual health problems: Use of the substance despite the recognition of a problem, e.g. potential or actual medical problems.

So, I won't tell you that you are killing yourself slowly or of all the medical risks you are taking when you continue to use these products. That would be totally silly of me; you already know about the nastiness, the health risks, how disgusting the habit is and that you could be giving others the same problems you may now be developing.

What is intriguing about the use of nicotine is that all the problems you may have developed can be stopped or arrested. Nicotine is, by far, the hardest of all drugs to stop using. The average smoker tries to quit smoking 7 to 10 times throughout their lifetime until becoming successful, either dying or stopping its use. Don't let this happen to you. Take the time now to stop using these products and save your life.

You can stop using tobacco products right now if you truly want to. Quitting smoking is definitely an event that must last a lifetime. During your trip down the road to stop smoking you will take a turn and start down the road to recovery. You will learn and experience new things, or re-experience things you thought you left far behind you. You will experience cognitive and behavioral changes that will bring new meaning to your life. And, you can have fun while you do this.

None of this information is medical advice and does not replace your physician. Go see your doctor for a true picture of what smoking has done to your body. You should seek out your doctor should you experience any condition or symptom that causes you concern or alarm, including depression if you decide to quit smoking.

Empower yourself with the strength and knowledge to follow-through. Strengthen your dedication and commitment to stopping your use of tobacco products. If you think you have a nicotine addiction you can certainly break the dependence nicotine has over you. You will love it. You will become a new you. In the end the question still has to be asked about nicotine addiction: Are you really addicted to nicotine?