Addictive Quality of Nicotine

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Maxwell GS via Flickr
Original Image by Maxwell GS via Flickr

Everyone knows smoking’s bad for you.  Our government and health organizations have gone to great strides to curb the number of people smoking.  However, heart disease is the number one killer of men and many diseases could be lessened or prevented if one does not smoke.  Smokers are the more susceptible to getting lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and asthma, etc.

I was curious to know what makes nicotine, the addictive part of cigarettes.  Many people I know want to kick the habit of smoking, but many succumb to relapse.  So, what is it about nicotine that gets “them.”  To better understand the biochemical aspect of how our bodies react to nicotine, health professionals can better cater to smoking population and work with them to completely quit and hopefully decrease the severity of many diseases.

Too much of anything is never good, but addiction, which is described as the continuation of a habit even though there is evidence of harm has been seen to occur with smokers.  Nicotine gives smokers a quick pleasing feeling, but coming down from the feeling can be detrimental to one health and can cause nicotine dependence–also known as an addiction of tobacco products.

Nicotine’s absorbed through the lungs since cigarette smoke’s acidic.  Conversely, pipe and cigar smoke is alkaline so it is not absorbed.

Although the addiction of nicotine is not associated with the same severity as heroine or cocaine, the impact can be just as powerful.  Nicotine’s considered a “reinforcing” drug, which means even though there are harmful effects, user’s come back for more.  On average, smokers need to smoke every 1-2 hours to “reinforce.”  Possible impact of nicotine on body:

  • May decrease appetite
  • Increased saliva and phlegm
  • May increase activity in intestines
  • Can increase blood pressure 5-10 mm Hg
  • Can increase heart rate 10-20 beats per minute
  • Brain waves altered
  • Constriction of blood vessels, causing a drop in temperature of extremities
  • May cause sweating, diarrhea and/or nausea

Those in defense of smoking, stating I don’t understand the concept of addiction or feel they’re not susceptible to these side effects don’t have to accept this information, but research has shown that these side effects are more common than not.  Just because you haven’t experienced these side effects yet, doesn’t mean you won’t.  Get ahead of the curve! Stop smoking before you develop heart disease and you’re required to change your habits, not because you want to, but because you have to!

Ways to quit:

  • Find a local support group
  • Discover what “triggers” you to smoke
  • Get the patch
  • Nicotine replacement therapy
  • Medications to lessen withdrawal symptoms

What tips have helped you curb your addiction to nicotine? What support do you lean on most?



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