Nicotine simultaneously acts as a stimulant and a sedative, which temporarily produces euphoric effects in your brain. And it’s classified as addictive because the potential for a dependency on nicotine’s pleasurable effects.
Yet, not everyone who uses tobacco (source of nicotine) will experience pleasurable effects, end up with an addiction or suffer from its withdrawal symptoms. The reason being is genetics plays a key role in how your brain responds to nicotine.
Nicotine is a chemical capable of crossing your blood-brain barrier. Once inside, it stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, most notably dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine has feel good effects, thus is part of the addiction process many seek replication of. Nicotine also inhibits an enzyme involved in metabolism, which then allows it linger longer.
Another nicotine effect is it stimulates your adrenal gland to secrete epinephrine, aka adrenaline, a major stress hormone, which has the effect of activating your “fight or flight” response, marked by an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. And at the same time, nicotine’s sedative action has an effect of reducing anxiety and generating euphoria.
In addition, nicotine releases corticosteroids and endorphins that act on various brain receptors causing your to become effective with information processing and less fatigued. And nicotine tends to lessen symptoms of depression, subdues hunger and suppresses the immune system.
So what’s so bad about smoking or using smokeless tobacco? Well, tobacco contains tar, a collection of chemicals known to cause certain cancers, like:
It also includes thousands of other chemicals, many of which have a poisonous effect on your body. So, your nicotine addiction can significantly increase your risk for some other health impairing consequences, specifically:
- liver damage
- heart disease
- Crohn’s disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- obstructive sleep apnea
- idiopathic pneumothorax
- digestive system disturbances ~ heartburn, peptic ulcers
- airway irritation ~ cough, wheeze, dyspnea, asthma flare-up
- vascular damage ~ atherosclerosis & peripheral vascular disease
- infections ~ influenza, respiratory infections, periodontitis, bacterial meningitis
Your infection upswing is likely because one of nicotine’s effects is suppression of immune function.
Nicotine withdrawals can occur when you attempt to cut off your addiction. Some of the physical effects and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- weight gain
- increased appetite
- decreased heart rate
- intense nicotine craving
- improved sense of taste & smell
- irritability, anxiety, agitation, depression
The most arduous aspect of withdrawing from nicotine is most often the incessant cravings.
Nicotine withdrawal cravings can be eased with the use of nicotine replacement therapy. Its replacement therapy involves using products containing a low dose of nicotine without all the other tobacco included toxins.
There are various types of nicotine replacement therapies, such as:
- nasal sprays
- skin patches
Nicotine replacement therapy tends to work when used properly in concert with a commitment to terminate your nicotine addiction. And any of the nicotine replacement therapy products can cause drug side effects when utilized in a very high dose.
Too much nicotine can cause nicotine toxicity, aka acute nicotine poisoning. The effects of excessive nicotine may result in symptoms of:
Another strategy for treating nicotine addiction and withdrawal are prescription drugs that do not have nicotine in them. They work by either blocking nicotine’s dopamine effects or blocking dopamine reuptake in an effort to beat your brain’s craving for it.
And because obesity now poses as great a threat to your health as using tobacco, you may need to take some drug action against replacing your nicotine addiction with food cravings as well.