Tobacco is a plant grown for it leaves. These leaves are trimmed, dried, and fermented before any tobacco product can be created. Tobacco contains nicotine which is the addictive ingredient that can lead to dependence. Nicotine is a chemical that contains nitrogen and is produced synthetically. A variety of other dangerous chemicals exist in nicotine. Nicotine locks into acetylcholine receptors in different parts of the brain, rapidly causing changes in the body and brain. Nicotine raises the heart rate and respiration (breathing) rate, and causes more glucose, or blood sugar, to be released into the blood. This might be why smokers feel more alert after smoking a cigarette. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Besides nicotine, the most dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke are tar and carbon monoxide. Nicotine is both a sedative and a stimulant.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or e-vaporizers, are battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to the lungs in vapor instead of smoke. E-cigarette companies often advertise them as safer than traditional cigarettes because they don’t burn tobacco. But researchers actually know little about the health risks of using these devices. While nicotine does not itself cause cancer, some of the other substances in liquid nicotine may well contribute to it. For example, a flavoring called diacetyl, used in some e-liquids, is also associated with severe respiratory problems seen in workers at a factory that produces microwaveable popcorn, known as “popcorn lung.” However, as a relatively new technology, the full effects of liquid nicotine are not known, and caution is advised.
Nicotine also attaches to neurons (brain cells) that release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Nicotine stimulates neurons to release unusually large amounts of dopamine. Dopamine stimulates the brain’s pleasure and reward circuit, a group of brain structures called the limbic system involved in appetite, learning, memory, and feelings of pleasure. Smoking cigarettes causes a flood of dopamine in the smoker’s brain. It is this flood of dopamine that gives the smoker intense feelings of pleasure. Indirectly, nicotine causes the release of dopamine in the pleasure and motivation areas of the brain, a similar effect occurs when people take heroin or cocaine.
In about 40 minutes, half the effects of nicotine are gone, so smokers then experience an urge to use the substance again. After repeated doses of nicotine, the brain changes. To adjust to too much dopamine, the brain cuts production of the neurotransmitter and reduces the number of some receptors and as a result, the smoker needs more nicotine just to maintain normal levels of dopamine in the brain. Without nicotine, the smoker feels irritable and depressed. The smoker has trained the limbic system to crave tobacco. These changes in the brain and body make nicotine highly addictive. Other addictive drugs of abuse, including heroin and cocaine, cause the same changes in the brain. Any form of nicotine is highly addictive, so e-cigarettes and vaporizers Liquid nicotine can act as a gateway to cigarettes for those not already regularly taking in nicotine. As users become more tolerant to nicotine, they require higher doses to enjoy the same effects.
Common Street Names
- Spit Tobacco
In its pure form, nicotine is a white or yellow powder.
When nicotine is added to propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin and sold in liquid form, not as a powder and nicotine in high amounts is highly toxic.
The Effects of
The pleasurable effects of nicotine include feelings of euphoria, alertness, and relaxation; however, there are negative symptoms which are discussed below.
- Abdominal cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Eye irritation
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive salvia in the mouth
- Elevated blood pressure
Within a few hours after the above stage, nicotine’s depressor effects will begin to appear which includes some of the following symptoms:
- Low blood pressure
- Decrease in heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Pale skin
- Increased risk of blood clotting
- Atherosclerosis (plaque formation on the artery wall)
- Enlargement of the aorta
- Peptic ulcers
- Increased risk of stroke
While inhaling a cigarette, smokers are pulling more than nicotine into their lungs. Tar causes lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial diseases. Carbon monoxide causes heart problems; smokers are at high risk for heart disease.
Smokers also have a dulled sense of smell and taste, reduced stamina for exercise and sports, and they smell of smoke. After smoking for a long time, smokers find that their skin ages faster and their teeth turn brown or discolored.
Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes run an increased risk of miscarriage, stillborn or premature infants, or infants with low birth weight. Smoking while pregnant may also be associated with learning and behavioral problems in exposed children.
People who stand or sit near others who smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke, either coming from the burning end of the tobacco product or exhaled by the person who is smoking. Secondhand smoke exposure can also lead to lung cancer and heart disease. It can cause health problems in both adults and children, such as coughing, phlegm, reduced lung function, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
SIGNS TO WATCH FOR
- Concentration problems
- Disturbed sleep
- Increased appetite
- Intense cravings for the substance
Nicotine is poisonous and overdose is possible; however, an overdose is uncommon. An overdose can occur when the individual uses too much nicotine and has a toxic reaction that can result in serious, dangerous symptoms or death.
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased or decreased heart rate
- Respiratory depression