Tobacco Use: Addiction and Short-Term Effects

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  • 0:01 Smoking and Addiction
  • 0:27 Nicotine Addiction
  • 2:28 Short-Term Effects of…
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you will learn about why it is that smoking is so addictive and what the short-term consequences of tobacco use will result in. You will also find out how nicotine plays an important role in all of this.

Smoking and Addiction

I've often heard from many people who smoke quite a bit that they aren't addicted and can quit at any time. But they don't quit despite knowing all of the ill-effects they're suffering from - and that's the point. The addictive effects of smoking are sometimes very insidious and lead one to believe they are in control when they are actually not. This lesson will focus on why smoking is so addicting and what the short-term consequences of smoking are.

Nicotine Addiction

The reason people become addicted to smoking is nicotine. Nicotine is a psychoactive drug responsible for the addictive effects of tobacco products. Even a few cigarettes and just a few days of smoking can cause a person to become addicted to it. Similar to how you may enjoy the taste of something sweet like ice cream and crave more later, your body becomes addicted to nicotine like your taste buds do to a good scoop of ice cream.

But the more in-depth reason nicotine is so addictive is because it affects the person's nervous system. This is the part of the human body that includes the nerves, spinal cord, and brain. The nervous system releases very powerful chemical messengers, such as epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine, as a result of nicotine.

Some of these messengers tell the body to relax in stressful situations, obviously making a person feel better by calming them down. This helps to explain why many people under stress at work or in life turn to smoking - it's because it calms them down. In other circumstances, these messengers help to improve a person's concentration and mental alertness.

In any case, the addictive effect of nicotine is so powerful that, on average, most regular tobacco users cannot go more than an hour without an urge for more of their product of choice, be it a cigarette or chewing tobacco. If they do not get their urge satisfied, they become irritable and less able to concentrate on a task at hand. Thus, they have given up their entire independence and self-control to a drug, and that is very sad indeed.

With that last statement in mind you'd think that I was talking about a sad case of a heroin addict and that I'm being a little bit extreme when it comes down to tobacco products. But many experts believe that nicotine is one of the, if not the most, physically addictive psychoactive drugs on the planet.

Short-Term Effects of Tobacco Use

As I mentioned before, it's important to note that addiction to tobacco products can occur shortly after a person begins using them. But the addiction itself isn't the only thing that people experience in the short-term as a result of something like smoking. In the beginning, smokers may experience any combination of:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • A rapid pulse

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