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Nicotine Dependence
Signs and Symptoms

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and causes release of the pleasure chemical dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain within minutes of the first puff, which reinforces continued tobacco use.

Tobacco users get hooked because of that pleasant feeling or "rush" and often continue to use nicotine to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the complex factors involved in tobacco and nicotine dependence are:

  • How the body handles nicotine, how it is absorbed and removed and how the body responds to it
  • Environmental factors, such as smoking while drinking coffee or after meals
  • Physiologic factors, such as a person’s genetic predisposition to addiction

When you stop smoking, the withdrawal side effects will appear in one to two days, peak during the first week, and then subside within two to four weeks.

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired performance
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Irritability, frustration and anger
  • Restlessness and impatience
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or sleeping too much

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Tobacco Treatment Center
2330 Post St., Suite 420
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 885-7895
Appointment information

Patient Experiences