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24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice
24 hours rehab

Call Now for Immediate Confidential Help and Advice 02038 115 619

24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice

Nicotine Addiction Explained

Nicotine is a familiar drug found in conventional cigarettes, tobacco, cigars and nicotine replacement products. More recently, nicotine has become popular with the launch of vape pens and e-cigarettes, raising questions about the safety of liquid nicotine.

This page will explore what nicotine is, why nicotine is highly addictive and will discuss its harm potential.

What is Nicotine?

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Nicotine is a stimulant found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae). Nicotine is a toxic, colourless, sometimes yellow, oily substance found in multiple products we already mentioned. It is easily obtainable and incorporated into different materials.

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Why is nicotine addictive?

Inside the human body, nicotine forces receptors in the brain to stimulate dopamine release, triggering an action which creates a false feeling of pleasure. Over time, the number of nicotine receptors expands; thus, the brain’s anatomy changes. When a nicotine-dependent person quits smoking, they cut off the brain’s pleasure reaction since the receptors do not get nicotine, triggering nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

This rush of nicotine is often the beginning of physical addiction. As more cigarettes are smoked, more nicotine receptors are produced.

Continuous smoking results in more and more nicotine being required to accomplish the same sensations of calm, leading to the smoking of more cigarettes.

As the body becomes familiar with having this consistent circulation of nicotine, symptoms like anxiety and stress can manifest if a cigarette break is missed. As soon as this cycle begins, physical addiction has occurred.

Is nicotine harmful?

Nicotine has a very high addictive potential. It poses a significant health hazard for people with heart conditions because of the effects it has on blood vessels and the heart rate. It raises the heart rate, opposing the objective of many treatments. Even if you’re using nicotine replacement methods, you should inform your GP, because it may affect your treatments.

Regarding its carcinogenic effects on the human body, research has been done extensively on rodents and other mammals (1). Nicotine itself has been proven to speed up and force specific processes in the body, which may influence the development of carcinogens in the human system.

Nicotine is a toxic substance when isolated, and some concerns have been raised over e-liquid products containing nicotine. However, there is not enough research done on the long-term health effects of the electronic (vape) cigarettes.

E-liquid products containing nicotine should be kept out of reach of children, as swallowing concentrated nicotine in this form can result in serious life consequences, even death.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy comes in several forms. Which treatment you pick can depend on things like whether you’re a heavy or lighter smoker, as well as if you wish to reduce your smoking or stop totally. Your GP or pharmacist can assist you to choose which kind of NRT to try if you’re not sure. (2)

E-cigarettes are very popular in the UK and have been shown to help individuals quit conventional cigarettes. (3) Nicotine liquid comes in different strengths, and those looking to replace cigarettes with nicotine liquid should look to reduce nicotine strengths over time.

For those looking to quit nicotine at once, nicotine antagonists (Champix) are one solution but carry risks for those with a history of mental health problems. We strongly advise you to consult a specialist about any treatment you plan on going through.

Alternative products include patches, nasal sprays, lozenges, inhalers and nicotine gums, all of which work to replace conventional smoking with nicotine-only products. While they have been shown to reduce smoking, some argue that it’s merely replacing one addiction with another.

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