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Nicotine Dependence And Adolescence

Nicotine addiction is currently an important phenomena.

  • Almost 15 million Spanish adults smoke (34.4% of the population over 16 years of age say they smoke)
  • Between 60 -70% of smokers are addicted to nicotine
  • Tobacco is responsible for approximately 56,000 annual deaths in Spain; cancer causes 30% of deaths, 20% are produced by cardiovascular illnesses and 80% are caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

In the entire nervous system - both the central as well as the peripheral , there are nicotine receptors that are affected by this drug; not only in the brain but also in the muscular fibers of the intestine and colon.

On inhaling tobacco smoke, the tar particles associated with it transport the nicotine to the lungs where is absorbed into the blood and later reaches the brain.

The addiction mechanism is activated when the nicotine is delivered to the lungs by inhaling tobacco smoke. It then reaches the brain neurons which liberate a substance known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which, in turn, stimulate the neurons to release another substance, dopamine. If these neurons are overexcited by the nicotine, the secretion of dopamine is limited. On the long term the neurons adapt their metabolism and need a greater quantity of nicotine to produce the same initial effect.

Why you should quit smoking:

  • Breathing improves and fatigue lessens
  • Coughing spells and predisposition to infections diminish
  • The skin and face recover from premature aging
  • Sense of smell and taste improve
  • Deterioration of lung function slows down
  • Risk of heart disease and sudden death are reduced in a 20-50%
  • Three years after quitting, the risk of a heart attack or a stroke of an ex-smoker is practically the same as that of a non-smoker.
  • Important economic reasons: currently to smoke almost a pack a day means an average expense of more than 1500€ a year.


Nicotine addiction affects the body both physically and psychologically; some effects are due to its use and others are caused by nicotine withdrawal.

Nicotine use:

Nicotine produces certain symptoms in persons with nicotine addiction (nicotine dependence) as well as in persons who smoke only sporadically. Nicotine stimulates, slows down; stresses and relaxes the body all at the same time.

  • Under the effects of nicotine the heat beats more rapidly, blood pressure increases, blood flow to the skin and internal organs is reduced and the body temperature lowers.
  • When the body metabolizes nicotine, it produces nicotinic acid (niacin), one of the B-complex vitamins which dilates blood vessels and increases psychomotor performance.

Nicotine withdrawal

The lack of nicotine leads to a series of symptoms called withdrawal syndrome. These symptoms can include the following: nervousness, irritability, depressed or bad mood, aggressiveness, fear, difficulty concentrating,anxiety, insomnia, nausea, hunger and a need to smoke.

These symptoms are mainly physical resulting from nicotine addiction and tend to disappear in three to four weeks.


The best way to quit smoking is to never start and quitting is the most important thing a smoker can do to improve his/her health.

The most effective methods to avoid tobacco use include prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, a complete prohibition of publicity and sponsorship by tobacco companies, and the establishment of spaces 100% tobacco-free to denaturalize tobacco use, reinforced by public health campaigns in the media to advise of the negative consequences of smoking; the use of packaging with graphic warnings; and the creation of high impact publicity campaigns in the media to warn of the dangers of smoking.

If you smoke and wish to quit, your doctor can help you by providing adequate information and different strategies to reach your goal. If, additionally, you have an illness which can be aggravated by tobacco (coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, COPD, diabetes, etc.) it is imperative to quit smoking as a principal preventive measure.

The majority of people who have quit smoking have done it on their own, alone and without more help than their own motivation and with the support of their family and friends. Many people who try to quit smoking only do so after the second or third attempt. For some people, a nicotine substitute treatment is a valuable aid and there are also diverse commercial support therapies that have helped others quit smoking.

Gene or region studied

  • DRD2
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