What is Nicotine?
Many people have heard of nicotine; they know it is commonly found in tobacco cigarettes, but usually, that’s the extent of their knowledge. However, there is so much more to know about nicotine, a fascinating chemical compound. For example, nicotine is a substance that occurs in nature; it’s not some laboratory-made compound. Nicotine is something called an alkaloid, which means that it contains nitrogen atoms. Alkaloids can be found in many different kinds of living things such as plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. Some other alkaloids include caffeine, quinine, ephedrine and atropine.
Nicotine Effects in the Human Body
Nicotine in the Human Body
Nicotine makes its way through the body via the bloodstream. When a person smokes a cigarette and inhales the nicotine, the nicotine reaches the brain in around seven seconds. When the nicotine comes into contact with the brain, it causes the levels of several neurotransmitters to rise significantly. One of these neurotransmitters is dopamine, a substance associated with the reward system of the brain. Dopamine is famously known for causing things like relaxation, pleasure and addiction.
Nicotine doesn’t stay in the body very long; it only has a half-life of around two hours. As mentioned before, nicotine and caffeine are both alkaloids, which helps explain why these two chemicals have similar effects on people. Although nicotine sometimes gets a bad rap due to being an addictive stimulant, research has not shown any links between nicotine and cancer.
How Does Nicotine Affect People?
Although nicotine does not affect each person the same way, common nicotine effects reported by people who use tobacco products include mood change and weight loss. Nicotine is an unusual chemical; unlike other chemicals that either stimulate or sedate, nicotine can do both, depending on the amount ingested. Low doses of nicotine cause the liver to release glucose, the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline and the brain to become more sensitive to dopamine and norepinephrine; all of these things result in stimulation. Higher doses of nicotine make the brain more sensitive to serotonin and opiates, which creates a sedative effect. Smokers who want to experience nicotine’s stimulating effects take short, quick puffs while smokers who crave the sedation that nicotine can provide take long, deep puffs. Nicotine is also known for cutting down people’s appetites and stimulating their metabolisms, both of which tend to result in weight loss.
Addiction to Nicotine