Nicotine is a parasympathetic nervous system stimulating alkaloid, which is organically produced in tobacco plants among another nightshade family of plants such as potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, and red peppers. It is a popular stimulant which is usually consumed in the form of smoking cigarettes. This nitrogen-containing compound can also be manufactured synthetically. Nicotine is very harmful to humans as it increases tobacco dependency due to its being heavily addictive. Smoking is one of the most frequent causes of death, which can be preventable.
The History of Nicotine
Tobacco has been used as a medicinal stimulant for thousands of years. Smoking tobacco through the medium of a pipe or cigar became popular around the 1600s and quickly gave rise to the tobacco industry. The industry grew exponentially when a patented machine was manufactured to produce paper cigarettes in 1880. This allowed the common people to get access to nicotine as cigarettes’ mass production became much easier.
Apart from being a stimulant, nicotine was also used as a pesticide and insecticide since the 1690s. However, these are banned in multiple places to decrease nicotine levels in foods. The Supreme Court granted control to the FDA over nicotine regulations in 2009.
Effects of Nicotine
Primarily, nicotine is a stimulant as well as a sedative. It is believed to have certain analgesic or pain-relieving effects as well. As a stimulant, the intake of nicotine releases adrenaline providing a rush of energy through the body while simultaneously increasing heart rate and blood pressure. It also stimulates the brain to release dopamine, which makes the user experience pleasure. Drugs like heroin or cocaine induce a similar effect, and thus, nicotine is as addictive and hard to give up as heroin.
Nicotine is known to reduce anxiety and increase the sensation of feeling calm and relaxed. Multiple studies have shown that the intake of nicotine can also significantly improve concentration as well as memory. This happens due to the increase of two chemicals in our body, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.
Adverse Effects of Nicotine
Nicotine is highly addictive. Nicotine users who consume it daily can experience severe withdrawal symptoms once they stop. These symptoms include:
- Depression and irritability
- Increases anxiety
- Random mood swings
- Serious cravings
- Lack of concentration
- A feeling of emptiness
Nicotine also has several adverse effects on the organs and other systems in our body.
- It contributes to atherosclerosis and increases the chances of harmful blood clots.
- It promotes dizziness as well as irregular sleep.
- It potentially causes heartburn, diarrhea, and indigestion. It also causes ulcers and dryness in the mouth.
- It is very harmful to high blood pressure patients as it increases heart rate and blood pressure. This increases the chances of stroke.
The most popular way of nicotine intake is by smoking. To reduce the addiction of smoking, nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges containing controlled amounts of nicotine is given to patients. Pregnant women who are nicotine addicts especially benefit from these rehabilitation substances as nicotine can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.