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What causes nicotine cravings during addiction recovery?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
When you smoke a cigarette, cigar, or pipe, your body is getting a dose of nicotine. Your body quickly builds up a tolerance to this highly addictive drug. That's why people may start out smoking one or two cigarettes a day, but they wind up puffing through one or two packs.

When you quit smoking, your body suddenly loses its nicotine fix. That's a good thing, of course. But it takes time for your body and brain to adjust to this shock to the system. Nicotine acts on your brain to provide a sense of pleasure and contentment. When nicotine goes missing, you naturally crave it.

Hang in there. Nicotine cravings fade over time. It may take a few days or weeks, but eventually your brain and the rest of your body will adjust to this new, healthier way of living.
Cravings are caused by the withdrawal of nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance with stimulant qualities. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

It is the dopamine in your brain.  Your nicotine puffs release dopamine and your body craves that dopamine release.  The same thing with heroin, it causes dopamine release too.  There is no harm in having nicotine patches tapered in a steady way to help get rid of your addiction.  That is, the usual 1 pack per day smoker needs 21 mg of nicotine initially, 14 mg 2 months later, and 7 mg 2 months after that, to get rid of the nicotine addiction.  No harm in doing that.  Nicotine is okay - and it is much better than the cigarettes.  The hydrocarbons in tobacco and in other things you smoke, are what cause the cancer, immune dysfunction, arterial aging, and even the back pain that smokers have.

In this segment of Discovery Health's "Continuing Medical Education," Frank Vitale of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy talks about the causes of nicotine cravings.



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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.