Signs & Symptoms of Nicotine Dependence Video

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  • 0:01 Nicotine
  • 0:40 Addiction
  • 1:45 Signs & Symptoms
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Do you feel anxious, irritable and restless if you go too long without tobacco? Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is just one of the ways to identify nicotine dependence. Learn how nicotine gets you hooked as well as additional signs and symptoms.


Many people begin smoking at an early age. When you're young, smoking a cigarette, cigar, or pipe or using other tobacco products can feel fun and adventurous. What most tobacco users don't count on is getting addicted.

Tobacco contains an addictive substance called nicotine. Because of this addictive chemical, it's easy for a person to develop nicotine dependence, which is an addiction to the nicotine found in tobacco products.

In this lesson, you will learn how nicotine gets you hooked as well as the signs and symptoms to watch for if you suspect that someone you care about is nicotine dependent.


While you can become dependent on any smoked or smokeless form of tobacco, let's take a look at what happens after you light up a cigarette. Within a few seconds of taking your first puff, nicotine finds its way into your bloodstream and travels up to your brain. In your brain, it stimulates the release of a number of neurotransmitters, which are tiny chemical messengers. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the pleasure center of your brain. Therefore, when dopamine is released, you feel good.

However, this sensation does not last long. If smokers go more than a few hours without lighting up another cigarette, they can start to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and restlessness. These symptoms are relieved with the next puff of a cigarette, so smokers find themselves dependent on the regular consumption of cigarettes to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay and produce the good feeling that comes with the dopamine rush.

Signs & Symptoms

Nicotine is highly addictive and there are some signs and symptoms that you can look for if you suspect someone you know is suffering from nicotine dependence. To learn how to recognize these symptoms, we'll look at the following scenarios.

Let's say you have a friend who started smoking a few months ago. The two of you have decided to go out to eat, but your friend is concerned because the restaurant you selected does not allow smoking. This might be a red flag to let you know that your friend is growing dependent on nicotine. People with a nicotine dependence may end up avoiding or excusing themselves from social events in order to smoke.

Despite your friend's apprehension, she agrees to meet you at the restaurant. You have a great time but after dinner, your friend mentions she is experiencing a craving for a cigarette. She tries to ignore the craving but you can see that as time passes, she is growing anxious, irritable, and restless, and you realize that your friend is having withdrawal symptoms.

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