What is tobacco?
Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, which are dried and fermented before being used in tobacco products. Tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive ingredient, which is why so many people who use tobacco find it difficult to quit. Studies suggest that other chemicals found in tobacco products may also contribute to its addictive potential.
How is it used?
Tobacco can be smoked, vaporized, chewed, or sniffed.
Cigarettes, and more recently e-cigarettes, have been engineered to efficiently deliver nicotine into the body. When tobacco is smoked, nicotine rapidly reaches peak levels in the bloodstream and enters the brain. When tobacco is not inhaled–in products such as cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco –nicotine is absorbed through mucous membranes and reaches peak levels more slowly.
Nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands, which results in the discharge of epinephrine (adrenaline). This rush of adrenaline stimulates the body and causes an increase in blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate.
Long-Term Health Consequences
Cigarette smoking contributes to an estimated 480,000 deaths in the US each year—more than alcohol, illegal substance use, homicide, suicide, car accidents, and HIV/AIDS combined. (NIDA)
Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ in the body with wide ranging health impacts – from cataracts to pneumonia, – and it accounts for about one-third of all cancer deaths and almost 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer. Smoking is also associated with cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, and acute myeloid leukemia. The overall rates of death from cancer are twice as high among smokers as nonsmokers.
Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes incur an increased risk of miscarriage, stillborn or premature infants, or infants with low birth weight. Secondhand smoke exposure can cause health problems in both adults and children, such as reduced lung function, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Research suggests that children and teens may be especially sensitive to nicotine, making it easier for them to develop a tobacco use disorder.
Tobacco Use Disorder Treatments
Although some smokers can quit without help, most people need assistance. Smoking cessation can have immediate health benefits–within 24 hours of quitting, blood pressure and chances of heart attack decrease. Long-term benefits of smoking cessation include decreased risk of stroke, lung and other cancers, and coronary heart disease. A 35-year-old man who quits smoking will, on average, increase his life expectancy by five years. (NIDA)
The most effective treatment strategies for tobacco use disorder include a combination of medications and behavioral interventions.
Behavioral interventions range from cognitive behavioral therapy to mindfulness training and can be accessed in a variety of ways, including formal clinical settings, on the phone, and through resources accessible online.
A. A problematic pattern of tobacco use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
- Tobacco is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control tobacco use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain or use tobacco.
- Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use tobacco.
- Recurrent tobacco use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., interference with work).
- Continued tobacco use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of tobacco (e.g., arguments with others about tobacco use).
- important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of tobacco use.
- Recurrent tobacco use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., smoking in bed).
- Tobacco use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by tobacco.
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
- A need for markedly increased amounts of tobacco to achieve the desired effect.
- A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of tobacco.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
- The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for tobacco (refer to Criteria A and B of the criteria set for tobacco withdrawal).
- Tobacco (or a closely related substance, such as nicotine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Overall, the diagnosis of a substance use disorder is based on a pathological pattern of behaviors related to use of the substance. To assist with organization. Criterion A criteria can be considered to fit within overall groupings of impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria. Impaired control over substance use is the first criteria grouping (Criteria 1-4). The individual may take the substance in larger amounts or over a longer period than was originally intended (Criterion 1).
The individual may express a persistent desire to cut down or regulate substance use and may report multiple unsuccessful efforts to decrease or discontinue use (Criterion 2).
The individual may spend a great deal of time obtaining the substance, using the substance, or recovering from its effects (Criterion 3). In some instances of more severe substance use disorders, virtually all of the individual’s daily activities revolve around the substance.
Craving (Criterion 4) is manifested by an intense desire or urge for the drug that may occur at any time but is more likely when in an environment where the drug previously was obtained or used. Craving has also been shown to involve classical conditioning and is associated with activation of specific reward structures in the brain. Craving is queried by asking if there has ever been a time when they had such strong urges to take the drug that they could not think of anything else. Current craving is often used as a treatment outcome measure because it may be a signal of impending relapse. Social impairment is the second grouping of criteria (Criteria 5-7).
Recurrent substance use may result in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (Criterion 5). The individual may continue substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (Criterion 6). Important social, occupational, or recreational activities may be given up or reduced because of substance use (Criterion 7). The individual may withdraw from family activities and hobbies in order to use the substance.
Risky use of the substance is the third grouping of criteria (Criteria 8-9). This may take the form of recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (Criterion 8).
The individual may continue substance use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (Criterion 9). The key issue in evaluating this criterion is not the existence of the problem, but rather the individual’s failure to abstain from using the substance despite the difficulty it is causing.
Pharmacological criteria are the final grouping (Criteria 10 and 11). Tolerance (Criterion 10) is signalled by requiring a markedly increased dose of the substance to achieve the desired effect or a markedly reduced effect when the usual dose is consumed. The degree to which tolerance develops varies greatly across different individuals as well as across substances and may involve a variety of central nervous system effects. For example, tolerance to respiratory depression and tolerance to sedating and motor coordination may develop at different rates, depending on the substance. Tolerance may be difficult to determine by history alone, and laboratory tests may be helpful (e.g., high blood levels of the substance coupled with little evidence of intoxication suggest that tolerance is likely). Tolerance must also be distinguished from individual variability in the initial sensitivity to the effects of particular substances. For example, some first-time alcohol drinkers show very little evidence of intoxication with three or four drinks, whereas others of similar weight and drinking histories have slurred speech and in coordination.
Withdrawal (Criterion 11) is a syndrome that occurs when blood or tissue concentrations of a substance decline in an individual who had maintained prolonged heavy use of the substance. After developing withdrawal symptoms, the individual is likely to consume the substance to relieve the symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms vary greatly across the classes of substances, and separate criteria sets for withdrawal are provided for the drug classes. Marked and generally easily measured physiological signs of withdrawal are common with alcohol, opioids, and sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics. Withdrawal signs and symptoms with stimulants (amphetamines and cocaine), as well as tobacco and cannabis, are often present but may be less apparent. Significant withdrawal has not been documented in humans after repeated use of phencyclidine, other hallucinogens, and inhalants; therefore, this criterion is not included for these substances. Neither tolerance nor withdrawal is necessary for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder. However, for most classes of substances, a past history of withdrawal is associated with a more severe clinical course (i.e., an earlier onset of a substance use disorder, higher levels of substance intake, and a greater number of substance-related problems).
Symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal occurring during appropriate medical treatment
with prescribed medications (e.g., opioid analgesics, sedatives, stimulants) are specifically not counted when diagnosing a substance use disorder. The appearance of normal, expected pharmacological tolerance and withdrawal during the course of medical treatment has been known to lead to an erroneous diagnosis of “addiction” even when these were the only symptoms present. Individuals whose only symptoms are those that occur as a result of medical treatment (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal as part of medical care when the medications are taken as prescribed) should not receive a diagnosis solely on the basis of these symptoms. However, prescription medications can be used inappropriately, and a substance use disorder can be correctly diagnosed when there are other symptoms of compulsive, drug-seeking behavior.