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If you are not a smoker yourself, you probably know someone who smokes cigarettes and told you something along these lines: “I can quit anytime”. Things are quite different: a big percentage of those trying to give up on cigarettes and nicotine do not succeed. It is not easy to escape this addiction. The path towards recovery is not without obstacles, and one often needs help in overcoming them before one can say goodbye to that morning cigarette.
Nicotine addiction is a bit more complicated than it seems, and it’s essential to see the effects it has on your health and lifestyle.
What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is a compound, more specifically a chiral alkaloid. This compound is produced by the nightshade plant family. Examples from the nightshade family include eggplant, red peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. But while these plants produce their own amount of nicotine, they’re nowhere as close as the tobacco plant. As expected, the tobacco plant produces the highest levels of nicotine.
Nicotine is a stimulant drug and it’s highly addictive. It can speed up the messages that travel between the body and the brain, causing euphoria (Which leads to dependence).
The History of Nicotine
For at least 2,000 years, tobacco has been used in America as a stimulant and as medicine. However, it’s not known when tobacco first got to Europe, although some people think it was Christopher Columbus who might have been part of this. He is thought to have discovered tobacco when he was exploring the Americas, and that’s why people think he might have brought it to Europe as well.
During the 1600s, it was a normal thing to see people smoking cigars and pipes, as tobacco use was spreading during those times. Not everyone had a good opinion on it, though. Whereas some people thought tobacco was medicinal and could bring many benefits, the other party saw it as being toxic and addictive. This was especially common in Europe.
Then, in the 1700s it kept growing as an industry, and in 1763 it was even used as an insecticide. Later, the industry of tobacco skyrocketed in 1880. This was because of the machine that was invented and that was able to create masses of paper cigarettes – this made them very easy to produce. As a result, they grew in popularity even more.
But the years to come would reveal how nicotine was not all sunshine and rainbow. In 1828, chemist Karl Ludwig Reimann and Doctor Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt isolated nicotine from tobacco. Then, they identified the compound as a poison. When the 19th century reached its end, a lot of lawmakers were starting to see that nicotine had a lot of harmful effects on people’s health. This is why by the year 1890, there were multiple laws passed in order to ban stores from selling nicotine to anyone who is a minor. 26 states took this decision.
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The Effects of Nicotine
The "Nicotine Effect"
What is the nicotine effect? It’s one of the reasons why so many people end up needing nicotine after they start smoking. Nicotine is not only a sedative but also a stimulant. When you give your body nicotine, you will experience an adrenaline release, which is what gives you a “kick”. Nicotine is a stimulant for your adrenal glands – that’s why this process happens.
When the adrenaline overcomes your body, your heart rate increases, and the blood pressure and breathing activity increase as well. At the same time, your pancreas will produce a smaller amount of insulin than usual, and the blood sugar or glucose may increase.
Nicotine, Dopamine, and Anxiety
Another thing that takes place is the release of dopamine, which is again a reason why so many people like experiencing the nicotine effect, to begin with. Dopamine release from nicotine use will increase the motivation and pleasure areas of your brain. As a result, you will feel amazing after smoking cigarettes. When you have high dopamine levels, you will feel a comforting pleasure that you don’t feel when you’re not using nicotine as a smoker.
Nicotine can also lead to less anxiety in people dealing with it. At the same time, it can boost concentration and memory. That may be because of the norepinephrine and acetylcholine increase. You might even feel more awake after you smoke cigarettes.
Someone using nicotine may also experience some psychodynamic effects, such as being more euphoric, alert, and relaxed. Pharmacologic effects are also boosted with nicotine use. Your heart rate is increased, as well as the heart stroke volume and the consumption rate of heart muscle oxygen.
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Nicotine addiction occurs when someone starts to crave the chemical. The cravings can be both physical and mental, and not having the chemical available can cause a lot of stress and various reactions. The highly addictive compound can also cause people to become addicted to certain actions they perform after they use tobacco and get their nicotine intake. Moreover, various habits form around the use of this substance. This is why so many people tend to smoke as soon as they wake up, after a meal, when they’re stressed, and so on.
However, nicotine addiction can be very dangerous. Not only does it affect multiple parts of your body, but it is also responsible for around 435,000 deaths every year in the U.S. As such, giving up on your addiction is a necessary step in improving your life.
Getting Help For Nicotine Addiction
If you’re addicted to nicotine and think you cannot stop by yourself, you need to seek out some help. Usually, you will have to follow a treatment after you seek help – this way, you can give up on cigarettes and get rid of your nicotine addiction.
Treatment often includes nicotine replacement therapy, as well as Varenicline and Bupropion. More often than not, counseling will also help when accompanying medical treatment.
Nicotine is used in multiple ways, but the most widespread one is by smoking cigarettes. It’s also possible to see it used in pipes and cigars. Other people simply chew tobacco.
People start using nicotine for a variety of reasons. For instance, some simply have parents who smoke cigarettes, and this influenced them to start smoking themselves. Others thought it was a cool, glamorous thing to do and started smoking. On the other hand, teenagers are also easily influenced to smoke when the other people in their group smoke and they just want to try it too.
When exposed to nicotine, you will also experience multiple side effects. Being addicted to it can affect you in various ways.
For example, the side effects in the gastrointestinal system could include peptic ulcers, heartburn, dry mouth, vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, and indigestion.
There are many others that you might experience for other parts of your body. Your heart may get a blood pressure increase, while the heart rhythm and rate will change too. Also, you’ll be at a higher risk of stroke.
Nicotine might also cause someone to experience nightmares, have bad sleep, or feel lightheaded or dizzy. Other things that are possible include aorta enlargement, atherosclerosis, pneumonia, spasms in the lungs, and joint pain.
A study was later published in 1964. The study, published by the U.S. Surgeon General, made a connection between smoking and conditions like lung cancer and heart disease. Also, in 1994, nicotine was officially considered a drug that could cause someone to become addicted. It took all those years for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make this decision.