Today's population is composed heavily of smokers. In every corner, you could almost always see a smoker puffing out smoke. Remarkably, however, the percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes in the U.S. have decreased from 42% in 1965 to about 18% in 2012. But even as the number of smokers goes down, cigarettes and other forms of tobacco remain to be among the most heavily abused substance worldwide.
Dating back hundreds of years ago, Cigarettes and Tobaccos are one of the things that are commonly sought for. But, why are people so drawn to it? Why do some people regard it as an important commodity? Well, this may be attributed to the presence of Nicotine. Nicotine is one of the most active ingredients in cigarettes and tobaccos and may be accounted to its addictive properties. Like alcohol, cocaine, and morphine, cigarettes and tobaccos may be as addictive and pleasurable as these things.
Basically, Nicotine is being regarded as a stimulant drug and is a potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid that is found in the nightshade family of plants or Solanaceae (1). It comprises approximately 0.6-3.0 % of the dry weight of tobacco but is also found in minute amounts in some edible plants such as the eggplant.
Now let us know how Nicotine really works inside our body and why some people, most specifically smokers, find it hard to let go of nicotine from their daily lifestyle.
Since Nicotine is smoked through cigarettes and tobacco, it commonly enters an individual’s body through inhalation. However, some other forms where Nicotine may be administered is through putting Nicotine patches, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, and snuffing it. Whatever modes of administration it may be, Nicotine enters our bloodstream and the blood-brain barrier in a similar fashion. It is believed that after approximately 15 seconds of administration, Nicotine is readily available in the brain and our central nervous system. Moreover, the half-life of Nicotine is approximately 2 hours.
Once in the brain, Nicotine works by influencing the nicotinic receptors. And yes, there are specific receptors intended for Nicotine. Basically, our Acetylcholine receptors are of two types and their names are derived from the agonists that act upon them, the muscarine and nicotine. The receptors include the muscarinic Acetylcholine receptors or muscarinic AChRs and the nicotinic Acetylcholine receptors or nAChRs. Now, nAChRs are ligand-gated ion channels that serve to mediate fast signal transmissions at the cell’s synapses. They play an important function in our body’s physiological processes, both neuronal and muscular form (2). Now with the activation of the nicotinic Ach receptors, it will result to different intracellular cascades such as the release of genes and neurotransmitters like Acetylcholine (1). This then influences an increase in the levels of Acetylcholine in our brain. And as we all know, Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter responsible for an individual’s memory, learning and mood. Moreover, it also has a vital role on one’s contraction of muscles, the regulation of the endocrine system, and REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep cycles (3). Because Nicotine increases the levels of Acetylcholine, it may result in an enhanced cognition. This includes improved attention span and focus, and faster processing speed.
However, the these nootropic benefits of Nicotine is much lower compared to the available nootropics at the present time such as Piracetam, Pramiracetam, Noopept, and among many others. And so if you are looking for a more significant nootropic effect, it would be wiser to take the other nootropic supplements rather than Nicotine.
Not only is Nicotine used recreationally in cigarettes, e- cigarettes, and in chewing tobacco but also it also serves to be used in the medical field. The most common use of Nicotine is to treat nicotine dependence. In this way, smoking would be eliminated so as to prevent damage to an individual’s health. Medically, Nicotine is administered in controlled levels to patients through dermal patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and/ or electronic cigarettes. The controlled administration would then wean off the user from their dependence to nicotine.
We also have the so called Nicotine replacement therapy also known as smoking cessation. This method has been commonly used to smokers who tend to consume more than 15 cigarettes per day. Basically, the goal of which is to help people cut down their cravings for nicotine as well as to ease the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
On the other hand, various researches have look upon the possibility of Nicotine being a potential treatment for some conditions. Since nicotine influences the Cholinergic system, it may help protect us from cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. This is because individuals suffering from the said condition tend to have marked loss of the Nicotinic Acetylcholine receptors as well as a significant reduction in Acetylcholine levels. Moreover, nicotine may play a role in inhibiting the activity of Monoamine Oxidase B or the MAO-B. As a result, nicotine appears to protect as from Parkinson’s disease. A study conducted in the year 2000 also showed that contrary to the popular belief, nicotine can promote the growth of new blood vessels. In this way, people suffering from Diabetes may benefit from it through an improved circulatory network.
Proper dosing of Nicotine has been one of the issues around since as we all know, it poses to have addictive properties. Because of this, doses vary greatly for each individual. However, a dose of 30 mg to 60 mg is already considered toxic and fatal to humans. This is a very high toxicity level compared to that of the hard drugs like cocaine. With the case of Nicotine replacement therapy, it would be best to consult your doctor or healthcare provider for proper advise, dosage, and administration of nicotine. Moreover, a person’s condition and health status may play a role.
Do the benefits of Nicotine really outweigh its risks? Well then, it is up for you to decide. Aside from addiction, Nicotine has been greatly associated with a variety of health problems specifically that of the cardiovascular system. Nicotine increases a person’s blood pressure levels and heat rate as well as elevating serum cholesterol levels. On the other hand, it has been believed that Nicotine can be a tumor promoter meaning to say, it is associated with different types of cancer (1).
Other adverse effects related with the use of nicotine include, but are not limited to, decrease in appetite, increase in heart rate and blood pressure, production of more saliva and phlegm, and increased sweating, nausea, and diarrhea.
In contrast to the use of nicotine, some people who decided to wean off may experience from nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It generally peaks about 2 to 3 days later. This include, but are not limited to, intense craving for nicotine, anxiety, depression, headaches, restlessness, increased appetite and weight gain, drowsiness or trouble sleeping, and problems concentrating. However, these effects may be experienced by smokers even within 2 to 3 hours from the last use of tobacco. (4)References:
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