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If you find it difficult to quit smoking, you may want to seek more support. Here we explain what nicotine addiction is and how to get help.

What is nicotine addiction?

Nicotine addiction is a state of physical and psychological dependence on nicotine, a powerfully addictive substance found in tobacco. This dependence involves a compulsive need to consume nicotine, despite awareness of its harmful effects on health. In a study conducted in 2019, the National Drugs Library estimated that 680,000 of the general population in Ireland aged 15 years and older use nicotine products.

Nicotine affects the central nervous system and increases the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which produces temporary feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These rewarding effects contribute to the addictive nature of nicotine.

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How does one become addicted to nicotine?

Becoming addicted to nicotine is a gradual process in which regular use of nicotine-containing products stimulates the brain’s reward system by releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, creating feelings of pleasure and reward.

Over time, tolerance develops, requiring higher doses of nicotine to achieve the same effect, and the user begins to experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and anxiety as nicotine levels drop. These physiological processes, along with behavioral and social habits and the use of nicotine as a coping mechanism for stress or emotional problems, contribute to the development of addiction.

Early exposure to nicotine also increases the risk of long-term addiction. Breaking nicotine addiction may require a combined treatment strategy that includes behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement and community support.


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How do you know if you are addicted to nicotine?

Nicotine dependence is characterised by an intense craving for nicotine and the onset of withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and sleep problems when attempts to reduce intake are initiated. People develop a tolerance that requires them to consume larger amounts to achieve the same effects, and they continue to use nicotine despite awareness of the negative health effects.

Unsuccessful attempts to quit, continued use even with health problems, and sacrificing social or recreational activities are also common signs of addiction. These symptoms affect not only physical health, but also psychological wellbeing and daily functioning, making nicotine addiction a challenging but manageable problem for many.

How long does it take to become addicted to nicotine?

The time it takes to develop a nicotine addiction varies between individuals and can be influenced by factors such as use patterns, genetics, and age of first use. Teenagers and young adults can become addicted particularly quickly because their brains are still developing, making them more susceptible to the addictive effects of nicotine. Some may experience signs of addiction within just a few weeks.

It is important to note that both physical and psychological dependence contribute to nicotine addiction, with psychological dependence developing very quickly. There is no specific timeframe for when addiction occurs, which emphasises the importance of paying attention to early signs.


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Treatment for nicotine addiction

Treatment for nicotine addiction involves a combination of strategies to help quit nicotine and manage withdrawal symptoms. This includes nicotine replacement therapy with products such as patches and chewing gum to ease withdrawal, as well as prescription drugs such as varenicline and bupropion that reduce cravings.

Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, offers tools to manage triggers and stress, while support groups and counseling provide social support. Digital tools such as apps can also support the process with daily tips and progress tracking. Lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet contribute to overall wellbeing and facilitate withdrawal. These treatments are tailored to the individual’s specific needs and situation, and success may require patience and multiple attempts. Professional help can increase the chances of overcoming the addiction.

Treatment with CBT online

It is also possible to get treatment for nicotine addiction online. At Lavendla, we have psychologists and therapists who work via video. Feel free to book a first session today.

From conversation to understanding and change

Talk therapy is often the first step in the search for help. By working with a psychologist or therapist, you can begin to understand your symptoms and triggers, which is crucial for long-term change.

When professional help is unavoidable

If you are experiencing signs of addiction that are affecting your health, it is essential that you seek professional help. It is never too late to break free from an addiction. It can improve both your physical and mental health.

The first step to change

Book a 20- or 45-minute session with a qualified coach, therapist or psychologist today via our website booking form. If the time is not right now, remember that there is always an opportunity to come back when you are ready to make a change. Together we make the hard things easier.


12 common questions and answers nicotine addiction

What is nicotine addiction?

Nicotine addiction is a complex psychological condition in which the individual feels an inability to stop using nicotine, despite negative consequences.

How does addiction differ from abuse?

Abuse is usually the initial stage, where we exaggerate a behavior or consumption but still have some control. Addiction indicates a more severe problem, often with physical or psychological symptoms, if one tries to break the behavior.

Is addiction a disease?

Yes, addiction is considered a brain disease because it affects the brain’s reward system and decision-making.

Can an addiction be cured?

Addiction can be treated, but it often requires care and support. It is possible to become free from addiction to nicotine.

What are the signs that I may be addicted to nicotine?

This addiction involves a compulsive need to consume nicotine, despite awareness of its harmful effects on health.

How does one become addicted to nicotine?

Becoming addicted to nicotine is a gradual process where regular use of nicotine-containing products stimulates the brain’s reward system by releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, creating feelings of pleasure and reward initially.

How do you know if you have become addicted to nicotine?

Nicotine addiction is characterised by an intense craving for nicotine and the onset of withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and sleep problems when attempts to reduce intake are initiated. People develop a tolerance that requires them to consume larger amounts to achieve the same effects, and they continue to use nicotine despite awareness of the negative health effects.

What are the risks of nicotine addiction?

Nicotine addiction increases the risk of serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, various cancers, respiratory problems, immune system disorders, reproductive problems, and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. It can also lead to addiction to other substances and cause financial strain.

How long does it take to become addicted to nicotine?

The time it takes to develop nicotine dependence varies between individuals and can be influenced by factors such as patterns of use, genetics, and age of first use. Teenagers and young adults can become addicted particularly quickly because their brains are still developing,

What treatment options are available?

There are several different types of treatment such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, substitute medicine and support groups.

Can I be treated online?

Yes, several of our therapists and psychologists offer support sessions via video conferencing, for example.

Where can I go if I need help?

If you want to quit nicotine, you can seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are available for online or face-to-face sessions and can help you make the hard part easier.

Addiction treatment’s steps to a better quality of life

Nicotine addiction treatment is often a multi-step process that aims to help the addict stop using nicotine products, manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and develop strategies to avoid relapse. Here is an overview of what a typical treatment process might look like:

  1. Assessment and planning: Treatment usually begins with an assessment of the individual’s history of smoking and nicotine use, previous quit attempts, and an assessment of the severity of the addiction. Based on this assessment, a personalised treatment plan is developed that may include a combination of therapies tailored to the individual’s needs.
  2. Detoxification and management of withdrawal symptoms: The first step in quitting is to stop all nicotine use, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms. To alleviate these symptoms, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescription drugs can be used. This phase often includes support and follow-up from health professionals to manage the physical and psychological challenges of nicotine withdrawal.
  3. Psychological support and behavioral interventions: The individual may be offered psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to address the psychological aspects of addiction, learn coping strategies, and manage triggers that lead to nicotine use. Support groups or counseling may also be included to provide additional social support.
  4. Follow-up and relapse prevention: After the initial cessation of nicotine use, regular follow-up continues to monitor progress and manage any relapse. Relapse prevention strategies, including identifying high-risk situations and developing plans to deal with them, are an important part of this phase.
  5. Lifestyle changes: The individual is encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet and good sleep hygiene, which can improve overall wellbeing and reduce the risk of relapse.

Each person’s experience of quitting nicotine is unique, and treatment may need to be adjusted over time to meet their changing needs. The key to success often lies in a combination of professional support, personal motivation, and access to resources and strategies to deal with both the short- and long-term challenges of overcoming nicotine addiction.

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Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.