Nicotine addiction is a brain disorder primarily genetic in origin. There is evidence that environment can contribute to the addiction.

Nicotine addiction is reasonably easy to treat. Teach the person about their disease, give them the proper methods to withdraw from nicotine, teach them healthy coping skills and mechanisms to remain nicotine free and give them an aftercare plan that includes support from family, friends and if available a 12-step group.

Unfortunately, most smokers have co-occurring issues along with being addicted to nicotine. For many of those using nicotine, smoking is the tip of the iceberg. The drug nicotine has properties that can medicate co-occurring issues and disorders.

Some of those other disorders are alcoholism, anxiety disorder, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD and depression.

The co-occurring problem is probably primary and if not addressed the person has no choice but to go back to smoking to ease the symptoms of their underlying disorder.

People in treatment for emotional issues who smoke are not receiving the full benefit of therapy. They seldom resolve issues they just re-hash them over and over.

People who smoke while in treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction have a significant chance of relapse. Both nicotine and alcohol release of serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine in the brain. One drug reinforces the other. That’s why alcoholics in treatment smoke more – it makes up the difference for the loss of the alcohol.

An alcoholic without significant emotional problems can attend AA meetings, follow the suggestions of that program and obtain sobriety. There are many alcoholics who do just that.

Those people who relapse over and over on alcohol are told they are not ready to stop drinking – they have not hit their bottom. That’s not always true. What sane person would deliberately destroy their family, career and their life just so they can drink?

Chances are the person is also using nicotine. Smoking is an obvious symptom the person has issues other than alcoholism.

A person in AA or treatment is told to not stop smoking while getting sober. “One addiction at a time.” That statement is unfounded and ill conceived. Nicotine masks underlying issues therefore they are not dealt with. If issues are not dealt with, chances are the person will relapse. Even if the person survives and gets sober, the quality of their sobriety is limited.

Another inaccurate belief is nicotine reduces stress. No it doesn’t. Nicotine is a stimulant, not a suppressant. Nicotine speeds up the heart, constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure. It effects every organ in the body. Carbon monoxide from the burning tobacco is absorbed into the bloodstream displacing oxygen.

Nicotine lowers estrogen levels in women effecting their mood and contributing to the onset and severity of osteoporosis.

Nicotine is a major source of erectile dysfunction. Nicotine constricts the penile artery by up to fifty percent. This hinders a man’s ability to obtain or maintain an erection.

Women have twice the lung cancer rate as men. Women also have a more difficult time stopping smoking. My belief is women have more of a history of being discriminated against and abused. Nicotine medicates the depression and masks the emotions caused by the passed abuse.

Smoking is a source of stress not the solution to stress. Nonsmokers are less stressed than smokers. Both founders of Alcoholics Anonymous died from smoking. Bill W. died from emphysema and Dr. Bob died from lung cancer. More people die from smoking than all addictions combined including alcoholism, heroin addiction and cocaine dependency.

It is important to separate nicotine addiction and nicotine dependency. Both involve the use of tobacco products, but the two issues are completely different.

Nicotine addiction is a brain disorder usually inherited. If not addressed the person will have a loss in quality of life and could die from a number of diseases caused by or contributed to by smoking.

Nicotine dependency looks like addiction, but it’s not. The person becomes dependent on the medicating properties in nicotine to medicate underlying emotional issues or mental disorders. Nicotine is a stimulant, but it has a suppressing effect on emotions. This is because nicotine stimulates the release of certain neurotransmitters that gives the person a drug induced sense of wellbeing.

A person can be either nicotine addicted, nicotine dependent or he or she could have a dual diagnosis and be both addicted and dependent at the same time. Regardless, the whole person needs to be treated.

There are no short cuts or quick fixes. Those who use some simple technique or product and who stop smoking probably aren’t addicted or dependent in the first place. Most people who drink alcohol are not alcoholic. They are social drinkers. There are also social smokers.

Author's Bio: 

David is in recovery from both alcoholism and nicotine addiction for over twenty-threes. He has worked in the field treating addiction for over twenty years. David has written books on nicotine addiction, alcoholism and emotional stress. He also trains professionals.