Nicotine Dependence and Addiction

Klaus Kneale
by Klaus Kneale
27 Comments
February 11, 2013

For the individuals out there that have gotten past the debate over how much harm electronic cigarettes do, the next argument is over how much harm is done by nicotine.  Electronic cigarettes are being found to cut 99% of the harm out of traditional nicotine use by removing smoke from the equation.  Some even theorize that electronic cigarettes may not pose any long-term health concerns.

So then the argument comes that nicotine is an addictive substance and should be controlled based on said addiction alone.  So comes the time to take a look at nicotine addiction by itself as it compares to other (legal and illegal) drugs.

According to many researchers, nicotine is the most addictive substance available.  More than 30% of individuals that use nicotine for a period of time become addicted.  That beats out caffeine (just under 30%), Heroin (25%), and alcohol (15%).    Where this really starts to look bad is when considering dependence (that is, how difficult it is to quit nicotine).  Most researchers agree that nicotine is the most difficult habit to kick.

Nicotine ranks ahead of cocaine, heroin, alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana in dependence.  This is why the smoking cessation market is such a huge one — and why pharmaceutics companies are fighting to keep it.  Simply put, it’s damned hard to quit.  It doesn’t help that the withdrawal symptoms are about as bad as those of cocaine.

But then, what are the effects when you ignore addiction.  Researchers rank the intoxication level of nicotine alongside caffeine (almost none).  People aren’t loosing control under the influence.  Some research has shown nicotine use can increased blood pressure and heart rate.  It’s suggested that these effects can eventually lead to cardiovascular issues — but it sounds similar to the cardiovascular issues a lifetime of caffeine use can create.  Many individuals gladly take this chance in exchange for the benefits (weight loss, stress relief, reaction time and memory improvement, and others) of nicotine.

This makes the argument much harder to make for the obsessive control of clean, safe, and virtually harmless delivery of nicotine.  We don’t control caffeine (a substance readily given to kids) because the effects aren’t terrible and we can obtain it without gradually killing ourselves.  Providing nicotine to people the same way means we can no longer complain that individuals are killing themselves (and sticking us with the bill).  We can only argue that addiction by itself is hazardous enough to warrant legislation.

By the way, we don’t control alcohol to the degree that we do nicotine or even marijuana (this is simple point, not an argument for the legalization of marijuana).  Alcohol has a lower addiction rate.  However, alcohol is more intoxicating than cocaine, heroin, or marijuana and its withdrawal side effects (seizures, vomiting, depression, hallucinations, and more) are worse than those of all three.  Maybe addiction by itself is a good enough reason to control a substance, but even within that framework, our nation’s drug control sensibilities needs some sprucing up.

Comments

27 Responses to “Nicotine Dependence and Addiction”

      NocVision on February 11th, 2013 10:00 pm

      Hmm. This is very interesting.. Great stuff.

        jimpo42 on February 11th, 2013 11:32 pm

        Good Read

          Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) on February 11th, 2013 11:46 pm

          Just because something is addictive it does not mean it should be regulated or banned. Lots of things are addictive and even harmful. We are adults. We should be able to make our own choices. I do not need the FDA telling me I can’t take nicotine anymore than i need them telling me I can’t eat a cheeseburger and fries, those are bad for you, or drink a cup off coffee, caffeine is addictive. They need to let us make our own choices.

            Erik G on February 11th, 2013 11:52 pm

            Yes this article makes a lot of sense. Nicotine is very additive, and is certainly important. Nicotine dependence is even listed in the DSM as a disorder. Trouble is, most place talk about this issue have it wrapped up tight with tobacco.

              chuckss on February 12th, 2013 1:51 am

              Nice article, thanks for taking the time to post it.

                mrcrunch08 on February 12th, 2013 3:33 am

                Stuff like this hurts my head. I couldn’t agree more with your opinion on alcohol. People can die from the withdrawals of alcohol but the only thing stopping someone from getting it is age. Our system is so backwards it’s a miracle we have made it this far.

                  Morrinb on February 12th, 2013 6:09 am

                  Great article. Very informative. Thanks for sharing this.

                    Sylvie on February 12th, 2013 12:08 pm

                    great read.. out of all the addicting habits one can have, i’ll take a nicotine one any day.. it does not result in me hurting anybody like other addictions can!! I really hate this nanny world we now live in, how we allowed it to become one so easily is beyond me…

                      saboinia on February 12th, 2013 12:47 pm

                      thank you for posting dis

                        Ralph on February 12th, 2013 1:32 pm

                        hmmm ok, intersting

                          robovape on February 12th, 2013 8:11 pm

                          the “harm” caused by nicotine or addiction in general is incredibly hard to quantify, there are emotional, psychological, and physical effects that vary by subject and that you can’t really put a number on most of the time… this is why a lot of people have problems with “harm reduction” as it implies that the individual is continuing harmful behaviors instead of stopping them altogether, the underlying principle being “why not harm elimination… ” as most of us addicts know, that’s a lot easier for a non-addict to suggest than it is for an addict to do…

                          that being said, i personally feel that addiction in general and in and of itself IS harmful enough to warrant some degree of legislation/regulation… i’m sure some will disagree with me on this, especially in light of things like “caffeine addiction” which doesn’t seem serious enough to regulate (even to me, i have to admit, but on principle, i’d put an age limit on caffeine if i could, it really is messing up a lot of young kids… see, if you follow along, you’ll eventually realize i’m kind of a socialist, so it’s not you, it’s me) and i guarantee most of you don’t want me to say that vaping needs to be regulated… and it shouldn’t need to be, but the fact of the matter is it does… it’s addictive, it’s a pretty toxic chemical at high concentration, and dangerous to children even at lower levels, plus, since we’ve been talking about our distrust for the Chinese and their production standards recently in the blogs, i’d like to point out that i wouldn’t mind having someone checking out the LIQUID THAT I VAPORIZE AND INHALE to make sure there’s nothing more harmful than nic in it… now don’t get me wrong, i don’t want it overtaxed and only sold in pharmacies and require a prescription, but SOME standards have to be set and upheld at some point in time to protect the public… and don’t think i particularly trust the FDA to truly watch my back, let’s look at what they’ve BEEN allowing me to inhale… and i really dread how regulation will eventually manifest itself given the precedent of overtaxing, situational banning, and rigid control, but it’s getting to the point where something is going to be done…

                          this was a really nice post, lots of great info and while i may not entirely agree with all of your views, i respect them and you stated them well, thanks for the post :)

                            Courtney on February 13th, 2013 12:11 am

                            Almost anything can be addictive. Sometimes its the person, not the product. Great article.

                              Cordell on February 13th, 2013 3:16 am

                              NIce

                                imtheboss on February 13th, 2013 6:16 pm

                                A lot of things are addicting. Good read though.

                                  GhOsT DoGg 79 on February 14th, 2013 5:32 pm

                                  great read

                                    John "Shub" Fellhoelter on February 16th, 2013 3:16 pm

                                    Good article. It makes me think a little more of the danger to prolonged exposure to the OTHER ingredients in Ecigs.. such as PG & VG. Prolonged as in more than 5 years. There haven’t really been any studies on this since the market is so young…

                                      MrsCasey on February 19th, 2013 10:12 am

                                      People can be addicted to exercise and endorphins, to skydiving and the adrenaline rush and to competitions and winning. Not all behaviors catergorized as addiction necessarily have a negative affect on you. There have been recent studies showing nicotine does have a positive effect on the human brain including a six month double blind study in which people who had cognitive impairment and received nicotine patches showed an over 40% return in cognitive function while those who had no nicotine in their patches had a decrease in cognitive function over 20%. Nicotine continues to be demonized and those using it continue to be looked at as just weak addicts. This mentality needs to change and I make sure I take any opportunity to inform people that nicotine itself is not the problem, it is the 4000 or so chemicals and combustion that cause harm to smokers.

                                        Zane on February 22nd, 2013 7:38 pm

                                        Nicotine is kind of a messed up drug..

                                          Chad on February 25th, 2013 6:24 am

                                          Interesting as always!

                                            RCO67 on February 25th, 2013 7:22 am

                                            Yet another quality blog.

                                              John "Shub" Fellhoelter on February 28th, 2013 4:13 pm

                                              Another article that has been read for the second time. I’m gearing myself up for lowering my nic level!

                                                RCO67 on March 1st, 2013 5:19 am

                                                I find it disgusting and unethical that the government allows the FDA, whom many Americans naively believe to look out for their safety, to pass public regulations based on a stockholder’s bottom line

                                                  ManuDawg on March 13th, 2013 8:11 am

                                                  Great read, thanks for the article.

                                                    brianwilson on March 18th, 2013 10:52 pm

                                                    Good article

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