Skip to Main Content

Nicotine Dependence

Nicotine has been proven to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin and may even be more addictive. Many people who smoke develop nicotine dependence, which makes quitting all the harder, especially when they try to stop smoking on their own. In fact, 70 percent of smokers report wanting to quit, but many wait until they develop a significant tobacco-related disease such as heart disease, cancer or stroke.

The average smoker starts smoking as a teenager, a time of stress and searching for self-identity and general lack of concern about long-term health consequences. Many adults trying to quit have been a smoker longer than a non-smoker, and have not developed healthy ways of managing stress, anxiety or anger. These issues often surface when attempting to quit and interfere with the quitting process.

Quitting represents release from an addictive substance that controls behavior every day and can substantially limit personal growth. People who quit often undergo transformations, accompanied by a new sense of power and feeling that, "If I can do this, I can do anything."

Our Approach to Nicotine Dependence

Quitting tobacco is one of the most important steps people can take for their health, but it is also extremely difficult. The good news is that tobacco addiction is treatable, and tobacco users who receive counseling and medication during their attempts to quit are much more likely to succeed than those who don’t get such support.

UCSF is home to a multifaceted tobacco treatment program, staffed by nurses, pharmacists and social workers who are trained in tobacco addiction. We offer one-on-one consultations, interactive classes and a follow-up support group to help class graduates stay or become tobacco free. The follow-up program provides support from peers as well as guidance on tapering tobacco cessation medications.