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Tobacco 101: A Guide to Working with Nicotine Addicted Patients

Course Number: 534

Nature of Addiction

Taber’s medical dictionary defines addiction as, “An enslavement to some habit.” As we will see in this section, addiction is a multifaceted process and is a disease that needs to be treated as such. There are basically two components to addiction. First there is a physical component, a substance creates a dependence by inducing a physiologic change in the body. Secondly, we see a psychological process at work as well, with certain compulsive behaviors involving actions that reinforce themselves.

Tobacco or nicotine addiction is a combination of a physical addiction and habitual behaviors. In addition, scientists have noted there is also a genetic component that may make certain people more vulnerable to addiction. Younger people need to be aware that based on their family history they may need to be even more cautious as to exposing themselves to nicotine containing products.46