I've got a question regarding the behaviour of nicotine dependence in the brain.

Suppose a heavy user of nicotine stops consuming it entirely. The first 72 hours are typically the hardest, with consistent cravings, and various withdrawal symptoms. As time continues to pass, these symptoms will typically go away, and cravings will become less common.

After let's say one week, the user consumes a small amount of nicotine (perhaps one cigarette, chews some nicotine gum, or borrows a friend's vape). Will all of their progress of eliminating the brain's dependence on nicotine be lost? Or will this be just a small setback on the overall trend downwards?

For the context of this question, I am only interested in the physical neurochemical effect of resuming nicotine use, rather than any effects on a phycological level. Previous research on this topic has generally resulted in answers focusing on the psychology, and how resuming nicotine use can jeopardize quitting due to the continuation of it as a habit. Thanks!

  • What has your research revealed so far? As you know, questions lacking prior research may be closed.
    – Carey Gregory
    Aug 23, 2022 at 0:33
  • Discussion I've found on this focuses on the psychology of nicotine addiction over the actual physical neurochemistry. Updated question to explain. Aug 23, 2022 at 0:38
  • It generally helps to provide at least links to the previous research papers so that 1) we don't duplicate your effort for any answer and 2) actually shows prior research (as required by this Stack).
    – bob1
    Aug 23, 2022 at 2:41
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    @robbieperry22 It's a bit difficult to distinguish the two if you're a neuroscientist, since all psychology is a manifestation of what happens physically in your brain. A psychologist just generally minimizes some of those lower level mechanisms and says "I can treat these symptoms without it" just like an engineer doesn't need to use quantum mechanics to use a lever. It would be helpful if you provided specific sources to the sort of material you are trying to reconcile.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 23, 2022 at 3:07


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