There are a number of toxins in cigarette smoke, and all of these contribute to the addiction in some way, but this discussion will focus on nicotine specifically, looking at its particular role. It’s a large one, you may have guessed, and is the most addictive component. The way it reacts with the body is the major reason why people become addicted.
Cigarette addiction is extremely fast, and one of the fastest drugs to get hooked on. The body becomes accustomed to its effects very quickly, and the withdrawal is severe. The fastest way to cure withdrawal is always more of the drug that you’re withdrawing from, so it’s easy to see how it can turn into a vicious cycle very quickly.
Nicotine stimulates the glands that produce adrenaline. Blood pressure, heart rate, and the nervous system experience an increase, and the effect is rather pleasant, at least in the early stages of smoking. Soon enough, however, the body and the brain get used to the pleasure effects, and only care about the physical effects on these systems. Again, this all happens very quickly. When you inhale a cigarette, the nicotine hits the bloodstream within a few seconds, and the body experiences these effects right away.
Some of these are not even conscious, but the body gets used to speeding up, and with cigarettes, it can happen hundreds of times a day. When the drug is taken away, the body responds to the lack of the chemicals, and for the smoker, this is experienced as increased nervousness and anxiety, shakiness, sweats, and a very urgent feeling that something is wrong.
The only way to return to a normal state, then, is by prolonged separation from the drug, or to continue to administer it to the system. It’s always easier, in the short term, to continue the cycle of addiction, than to have to experience withdrawal. With some substances, the withdraw is so acute that it seems to be a better choice to just continue, and this is where addiction really takes over, because the addiction is finding ways to perpetuate itself in the body.
Withdrawal does have an end point, however, and it usually only lasts for a few days in its acute form, so that quitting is the most reasonable option to take.