Nicotine is a substance found in all tobacco products and some e-cigarette liquids (vape). It is a highly addictive substance found in tobacco plants. Nicotine can also be synthesized in laboratories.
It is also used as a pesticide in the agricultural industry.
Any product that contains tobacco also contains nicotine from the source. This includes cigarettes, heated tobacco products, cigars, and most e-cigarettes.
This article discusses the history and effects of nicotine, its potential effects on health, and treatment options for nicotine dependence.
The history of Nicotine
Nicotine comes from tobacco of the genus Nicotiana, a plant in the Nightshade family. Tobacco plants originated in South America and then spread to North America, Africa and Australia.
Indigenous people in these areas originally used the leaves of the tobacco plant for chewing, smoking, or religious rituals. European colonists exported tobacco crops for profit and shifted the focus of tobacco to recreational use.
The tobacco industry has a long history. Trusted sources use ethnic characteristics, demographics and cultural factors in a given area to target specific communities and promote tobacco use.
Tobacco companies also disproportionately sell menthol products to black and low-income communities. Tobacco companies add menthol to cigarettes to make them more palatable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among people who smoke, non-Hispanic blacks or African Americans are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes compared to other racial or ethnic groups.
Menthol may increase the addictive effects of nicotine on the brain. People who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to continue using tobacco products, which increases their risk of developing diseases associated with tobacco use.
Nicotine produces a temporary sense of well-being and relaxation, and increases heart rate and the amount of oxygen used by the heart. When nicotine enters the body, it causes a surge of endorphins, chemicals that help relieve stress and pain and improve mood.
The body quickly absorbs nicotine into the bloodstream, where it reaches the brain. Nicotine levels peak soon after entering the body, so the feeling of reward is short-lived. This creates a cycle of people continuing to smoke to maintain a sense of pleasure.
Nicotine also increases levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is part of the brain’s reward system and produces feelings of pleasure and reward. The release of dopamine enhances the behavior of a person taking nicotine.
Regular use of nicotine changes the way the brain works in terms of self-control, stress, and learning. When a person does not smoke, long-term changes can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Effects on cognitive function
Nicotine can also temporarily improve attention and memory. However, long-term smoking may lead to cognitive decline and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, any short-term benefits to cognitive function do not outweigh the long-term risks of nicotine use.
When people stop using nicotine, they may experience withdrawal symptoms that affect concentration or memory. Quitting smoking may also cause sleep disturbances.
Side effects of nicotine
Nicotine affects systems throughout the body and can cause:
● Sleep disorders
● Blood flow changes
● Increased risk of clotting
● Increased blood pressure
● Changes in heart rhythm and heart rate
● Shortness of breath
● Peptic ulcer
● Dry Mouth
● Joint pain
● Indigestion or heartburn
Certain nicotine products may also have specific side effects. According to the American Cancer Society Trusted Sources, side effects of nicotine patches include:
● Skin irritation
● Increased heart rate
● Sleep problems
● Sore or stiff muscles
A racing heart can mean that the dose of nicotine is too high, and people can talk to a medical professional about lowering the dose.
Side effects of nicotine gum may include:
● Smelly mouth
● Throat inflammation
● Mouth ulcer
● Jaw discomfort
● Increased heart rate
Other nicotine products can also cause a racing heart, nervousness and headaches. If a person thinks they are experiencing nicotine poisoning, they need to contact poison control or seek emergency medical help.
Nicotine may interact with some other drugs or medications. Nicotine may cause benzodiazepines to be less effective. If a person is taking birth control pills, nicotine may increase the risk of blood clots forming.
Nicotine is addictive and is the main psychoactive substance in tobacco, which means it alters the way the brain works. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most people who smoke smoke regularly due to nicotine addiction.
Smoking is the most common preventable cause of death. Smoking damages almost every organ in the body and increases the risk of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.
Nicotine does not cause cancer, but tobacco smoke contains at least 69 carcinogenic chemicals, which means they are carcinogenic chemicals.
Are e-cigarettes and vaping devices safe?
An electronic nicotine delivery system, which one can call an e-cigarette or vaporizer, is a small portable device that heats a liquid into steam. The liquid usually contains nicotine as well as solvents and flavorings.
E-cigarettes containing nicotine are not suitable for pregnant women because nicotine may cause prenatal developmental problems.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a report from trusted sources on the potential dangers of using vaporized products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also warns against using any e-cigarette products of unknown origin or purchased on the street. There have been more than 1,000 reports of serious lung injury due to the use of vaping products.
Currently, there is a lot that is unknown about e-cigarettes, including the chemicals they may contain and their effects on health.
If people are using e-cigarettes to help quit smoking, other methods may be a better option.
Nicotine dependence treatment
According to NIDA, a 2020 survey found that approximately 23.6 million people age 12 and older had experienced nicotine dependence in the past 30 days. Treatment for nicotine dependence may include:
1. Nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides people with small amounts of nicotine that attaches to some of the body’s nicotine receptors to reduce cravings.
NRT may include nicotine patches, sprays, lozenges, or chewing gum. Fda-approved NRT is the least harmful type of nicotine product.
Certain medications may also help treat nicotine dependence.
Bupropion, a drug that affects brain chemicals, is just as effective as NRT in helping people quit smoking.
Varenicline is a drug that stimulates specific nicotine receptors, but to a lesser extent than nicotine. According to Quit 18, it may be more effective than bupropion in helping people quit smoking.
3. Counseling and psychological support
Studies have shown that combining NRT or smoking cessation drugs with behavioral therapy is more effective in helping people quit smoking.
People may choose to talk to a mental health professional for advice or use psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Mindfulness, help lines, automated text messages and self-help materials can also help people quit smoking.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance in tobacco products and the reason many people smoke. It may cause side effects such as dizziness, a racing heart, and headaches.
It is also a toxic substance that can cause poisoning. If people suspect they have nicotine poisoning, they will need immediate medical help.
Nicotine may also lead to more frequent use of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, which can cause serious health problems.
Medications, nicotine replacement therapy, and behavioral therapy can help people stop using products that contain nicotine.