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Health Information Center

Nicotine Addiction

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Nicotine Addiction

(Tobacco Use Disorder; Smoking Addiction)


Nicotine addiction is a dependence on nicotine when it is used regularly. Nicotine can be found in tobacco products, such as:

  • Cigarettes
  • Snuff
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Cigars
  • Pipes
Chemical Release in Brain.

Drugs stimulate unnecessary chemical release in the brain.

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Nicotine acts on the brain's chemistry. It creates feelings of pleasure. These feelings go away within a few minutes. People will need to keep using nicotine to feel this way again. This cycle can lead to addiction.

Risk Factors

Use of nicotine products is the main risk factor.

The risk of addiction increases with:

  • Family history or exposure to smoking
  • Depression
  • Bullying


Symptoms only happen when nicotine is not being used. This is known as withdrawal. Symptoms are:

  • Increased hunger
  • Craving
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Thinking and attention problems
  • Trouble sleeping


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your history of using tobacco products. A physical exam will be done.

A blood test can check cotinine level in your saliva or blood. This will show changes in nicotine use. The doctor may use it to check your progress.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may involve 1 or more therapies. Options include:


The best prevention is to never use tobacco products. Try to avoid places where people are smoking as well.





  • Benowitz NL. Nicotine addiction. N Engl J Med. 2010 Jun 17;362(24):2295-2303.
  • Tobacco and cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer.html.
  • Tobacco, nicotine, and e-cigarettes research report. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/introduction.
  • Tobacco use. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tobacco-use-22.
  • 9/29/2016 EBSCO DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/management/nicotine-replacement-therapy-for-tobacco-cessation: Kalkhoran S, Glantz SA. E-cigarettes and smoking cessation in real-world and clinical settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Respir Med. 2016;4(2):116-128.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.