How Nicotine Affects Your Body
Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably no stranger to the health risks involved with smoking cigarettes. And when the issue of smoking comes up, nicotine is sure to get talked about in a bad light.
You see, nicotine is one of the most misunderstood cigarette ingredients. It has a reputation for causing smoking-related diseases—including cardiovascular disease (CVD)—when, in truth, nicotine is not a significant health hazard for folks without heart conditions. Even science experts want us to go easy on pointing a finger quickly at nicotine without understanding how it truly works.
So, is it safe for you to ingest based on how nicotine affects the body? Get the answers from our infographic as we clear the air about issues surrounding nicotine use.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately more than 8 million people die each year due to tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke. So, it’s not surprising that nicotine—the primary ingredient in traditional combustible tobacco cigars—will likewise be handed a guilty verdict of being harmful to your health.
That’s not entirely accurate though, as researchers and scientists like Professor Michael Russell have brought to light misconceptions about nicotine. Prof. Russell came to the defense of nicotine, saying that “people smoke for nicotine but die from the tar”—but that’s another story for a different time.
In other words, it’s the burning of tobacco and the thousands of harmful chemicals and gases released that are toxic, not nicotine per se.
There are also studies that have compared nicotine use to drinking coffee. Like caffeine, nicotine acts as a stimulant for several of the body’s chemical reactions including those that regulate sensory and cognitive functions, to mention a few.
Besides smoking cigarettes, nicotine can be ingested through vaping or chewing tobacco gum. Nicotine patches are also becoming a much-sought alternative for those who want to bid smoking and its health risks goodbye.
Regardless of the method you choose, you need to know how nicotine affects your body—starting with how it gets into your system. Here’s how it happens:
- You ingest or absorb nicotine either through the lungs when you inhale smoke from cigarettes and vapes, your mouth’s mucous membranes when you chew nicotine gums, or your skin when you wear nicotine patches.
- Once nicotine enters the lungs, it takes about 8 seconds to be absorbed into the bloodstream where it travels to the brain and attaches itself to receptors on nerve cells.
- Inside the brain, nicotine acts as a neurotransmitter by relaying messages to specific target cells to trigger those cells to carry out their functions. At this point, the body starts to experience the effects of nicotine.
The Effects of Nicotine
Here are the ways that nicotine affects your body physically, chemically, mentally—the range of the effects of nicotine can be far-reaching.
Nicotine is both a sedative and stimulant drug. Depending on the situation you’re in, nicotine can work in opposing ways. It can make you feel calm during stressful situations or it can stimulate your senses so that you become more alert and conscious when you feel bored, sleepy, or tired.
These sensations are the body’s response to nicotine releasing the hormones dopamine and adrenaline. As your dopamine levels rise, so do your feelings of pleasure that make you more relaxed.
Meanwhile, you may experience the sensation of a racing heartbeat as the rush of adrenaline stimulates your body into a fight-or-flight mode. As such, your heart rate and blood pressure may increase with nicotine. This adrenaline surge can also signal to the body to release blood sugar, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels.
Because nicotine helps regulate the body’s nervous system, it has an important role in improving all of your mental functions. Studies suggest that nicotine can lead to a sharper mind, which can be particularly helpful for older people who are already experiencing cognitive decline. If so, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well as ADHD and schizophrenia could be easier to battle with safe nicotine use.
Still, it pays to remember that until the age of 25, brain development is still in progress. That means adolescents must steer clear of nicotine to avoid damaging the part of their brain that’s responsible for promoting learning and memory.
You can also tell the psychoactive effects of nicotine by the way it gives you an overall happy disposition. When you’re in a relaxed mood, you’ll naturally feel less irritable and more at ease with yourself and your environment.
Concentration and memory
As mentioned, nicotine activates brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine and norepinephrine. These receptors are linked to the state of wakefulness, brain function, and memory, so you might notice yourself having a higher level and better quality of mental focus while consuming nicotine.
Nicotine has the power to evoke pleasurable effects to help you get through a bad day. This time, nicotine works with the brain chemicals endorphins and dopamine to mask whatever it is that’s causing you discomfort—whether that’s pain, stress, or anxiety—with something more rewarding or enjoyable.
This sensation is similar to the satisfaction you get from eating your favorite food or doing a hobby you really like. Suddenly, you’re filled with positive emotions and energy, so you start to feel way better about the unpleasant situation you’re facing.
Needless to say, addiction to any substance, such as nicotine, depends on how much of it you ingest and how often. Obviously, tobacco smoking delivers nicotine faster and in greater amounts to the brain.
To give you an idea, a large cigarette can contain approximately 13.3 mg to 15.4 mg of nicotine compared with 0.5 mg to 15.4 mg in e-cigarettes or vapes. Other sources of nicotine, such as patches and gums, can deliver 7 mg to 22 mg and 2 mg to 4 mg of nicotine to the brain, respectively.
In some cases, you’ll find nicotine-free e-liquids as it’s possible to vape without including nicotine in the mix. Conversely, tobacco can be mixed with various chemicals to further strengthen the addictive qualities of nicotine.
Clearing the Smoke for Nicotine
There’s no doubt that smoking is harmful to health, but it’s unfair to point at nicotine as the culprit. Even science has acknowledged that nicotine isn’t all that flawed. Unfortunately, bad PR for cigarette smoking got nicotine into the mess too.
Additionally, despite the potential negative effects of nicotine on the body, they are nowhere near the extent to which smoking cigarettes damages your health. So, if you’re looking to quit smoking, vapes are definitely a better way to go.
Just stick to legitimate, regulated brands for a better, safer vaping experience. Get your vaping supplies over at RELX today!