What is tobacco use disorder?

Tobacco use disorder means you are addicted to tobacco. With tobacco use disorder, you have trouble stopping using tobacco. 

Tobacco contains the drug nicotine. Nicotine is addictive because it gives a quick boost to your mood. This makes you want to use it more and makes it hard to stop, even when you know you should. The longer you use tobacco products, the more you may begin to depend on them. 

Stopping tobacco use is hard because it causes withdrawal symptoms. These reactions include anxiety and irritability. But it's important to know the risks of tobacco addiction. Smokers are more likely to have heart disease, strokes and cancer than people who don't use tobacco. 

Causes of tobacco use disorder

Using tobacco products and becoming addicted to them leads to tobacco use disorder. Tobacco has a highly addictive substance in it called nicotine. When you smoke or use tobacco, the nicotine causes your body to release hormones called endorphins. These substances activate the reward center in your brain. This makes your brain feel a short but strong burst of happiness. To keep getting this feeling, you start regularly using tobacco. This creates an addiction cycle that leads to tobacco use disorder.

Risk factors for tobacco use disorder

Anyone who smokes takes a chance of becoming addicted. Some people are more likely to become addicted, though. Some of the top risk factors for addiction are:

  • Mental illness or depression. Research links smoking with depression. But people with anxiety and other mental health disorders also tend to be addicted to smoking.
  • Having parents who smoked. Children who grew up in a house where parents smoked are more likely to start smoking.
  • Abusing other substances, like alcohol and drugs. People who use these substances are often smokers.
  • How old you were when you started smoking. The younger you were when you first started smoking, the more chance you have of becoming a heavy smoker when you're an adult.

In addition, some studies show that your genes can show if you have a higher risk of becoming addicted to tobacco. Some genetics might affect how your brain reacts to nicotine. This can make you become addicted more easily.

Symptoms of tobacco use disorder

The biggest sign of tobacco use disorder is not being able to stop. You may have tried quitting but always start up again. Or you may feel mad or depressed if you try to quit.

Smoking is bad for your health and can cause problems like lung cancer, bronchitis, heart problems and other issues. It can lead to diabetes and eye problems. Smokers also catch colds and the flu more easily.

If you start having health problems but keep smoking, that's also a sign of tobacco use disorder. If you quit doing things with friends or family because they don't want you to smoke, you may have a problem. 

Diagnosis of tobacco use disorder

If you think you have a problem with tobacco, see your doctor. They can ask questions to find out how much you depend on nicotine. That can help your doctor figure out the best way to treat it.

Treatments for tobacco use disorder

Treatment for tobacco use disorder depends on what you need. Today, prescription medications can help end your dependence on nicotine. These include a nasal spray or an inhaler that provide a small amount of nicotine. Nicotine replacement medicines work by giving you a boost of nicotine without all the chemicals that are in cigarettes. You can then slowly reduce the amount of nicotine you get each day. 

Other forms of treatment include:   

Replacement therapy: Non-prescription gum and patches can replace nicotine to help you quit smoking slowly. These are usually available at a drugstore. They work much like prescription replacements.

Counseling: Counseling combined with medications can make your treatment more successful. Counseling programs can be online, over the phone or through groups like Nicotine Anonymous.

Non-nicotine drugs: Drugs like antidepressants may help end nicotine cravings. The drug Chantix is made to help people kick the habit. 

Recovery from tobacco use disorder

Recovery from tobacco use disorder may not happen on your first try. Many people try quitting several times. Getting medical help can keep you from relapsing and make it more successful on your first try.