Nicotine Addiction Explained
Nicotine is a familiar drug 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 its harm potential.
What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is a stimulant found in the nightshade family of plants. Nicotine is a toxic, colourless but sometimes yellow oily substance found in conventional cigarettes, e-cigarette liquids and nicotine replacement products such as patches and chewing gums.
In many people, nicotine promotes receptors in the brain to release dopamine, triggering a pleasure action. Over time, the number of nicotine receptors expands and changes the brain‘s anatomy. When you quit smoking, you cut off the brain’s pleasure reaction since the receptors do not get nicotine, triggering nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
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Why is Nicotine Addictive?
Each time somebody smokes, nicotine goes into the brain almost instantly. Receptors in the brain soak up the substance and then dopamine is launched, leading to a feeling of happiness or calm.
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, while extremely addictive, is not a significant health hazard for people without heart conditions. It does not trigger severe cardiac events or coronary heart disease and is not carcinogenic. However, nicotine is a problem for individuals with heart disease. It raises the heart rate, opposing the objective of many treatments. Inform your GP if you have heart disease and are using nicotine replacement.
Nicotine is a toxic substance when isolated, and some concerns have been raised over e-liquid products containing nicotine.
E-liquid products containing nicotine should be kept out of reach of children, as swallowing concentrated nicotine in this form can result in death.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
E-cigarettes are very popular in the UK and have been shown to help individuals quit conventional cigarettes. Nicotine liquid comes in different strengths, and those looking to replace cigarettes with nicotine liquid should look to reduce nicotine strengths over time.
Alternative products include patches 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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