Nicotine and Addiction

Nicotine and addiction often go hand in hand. From those who are just addicted to cigarettes to those who drink or use drugs and who also smoke. So what, if any, are the benefits of recovery? And what are the pitfalls?

So just what is nicotine?  According to the US National Library of Medicine, tobacco contains a chemical called nicotine and nicotine is an addictive substance. They say “Smokeless tobacco products are either placed in the mouth, cheek, or lip and sucked or chewed on, or placed in the nasal passage. The nicotine in these products is absorbed at the same rate as smoking tobacco, and addiction is still very strong,” adding “Both smoking and smokeless tobacco use carry many health risks.”

Vaping Daily agrees.  “Nicotine is a supplemental source of energy for nicotine addicts. People dependent on nicotine use it as a resource to fuel up their daily lives. Studies show that nicotine is equally dangerous and addictive as other drugs like cocaine or heroin. Although the side effects are not as strong as the latter two, withdrawal from nicotine is quite a monumental task.”

According to Vice, John Turner, professor of psychology and chair of the Drugs and Addictive Behaviours Research Group at the University of East London, believes that any effects of nicotine on opiate withdrawal symptoms may be negligible. He says “the science suggests that nicotine, however, delivered, has no positive effects on anxiety. If anything, it is quite the reverse—nicotine is often anxiogenic.”

Turner continues: “Any positive effects that we see in regular nicotine users are most likely due to use reversing nicotine-withdrawal effects in between tobacco or e-cigarettes.”

Nicotine has different effects on the body. According to the US National Library of Medicine it can:

  • Decrease the appetite; fear of weight gain makes some people unwilling to stop smoking.
  • Boost mood, give people a sense of well-being, and possibly even relieve minor depression.
  • Increase activity in the intestines.
  • Create more saliva and phlegm.
  • Increase the heart rate by around 10 to 20 beats per minute.
  • Increase blood pressure by 5 to 10 mm Hg.
  • Possibly cause sweating, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Stimulate memory and alertness; people who use tobacco often depend on it to help them accomplish certain tasks and perform well.

A report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the majority of smokers would like to stop smoking, and each year about half try to quit permanently. Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t great; only about six percent of smokers are able to quit in any given year. In fact, most smokers will need to make multiple attempts before they are able to quit permanently. Medications including varenicline, and some antidepressants (e.g. bupropion), and nicotine-replacement therapy can help in many cases.

Indeed, the pharmacokinetic properties of nicotine, that is the way in which it is processed by the body, add to its addictiveness. When cigarette smoke enters the lungs, nicotine is absorbed rapidly and moves straight to the brain, so that nicotine levels peak within just ten seconds of the initial inhalation. But along with that comes the equally as quick dissipation of the acute effects of nicotine – meaning the feelings of reward lessen. This leads to the smoker continuing and in some cases increasing their dosing simply to maintain the pleasurable effects and halt withdrawal.

There’s a slight difference in the sexes when it comes to smoking. According to the CDC, while 17.5% of men smoke, only 13.5% of women do. And it’s not just smoking; Windward Way puts it like this: “According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men are more likely than women to try and use all types of illegal drugs. As such, the number of men that end in the emergency room or die from an overdose is far greater than women.”

Vaping is becoming increasingly popular amongst both sexes. Indeed, a report from the Society For The Study of Addiction says “While vaping cannabis reduces respiratory exposure to toxic particulates in cannabis smoke, the resultant reduction in clinically evident harms to lung health is probably smaller than that likely to result from substituting e-cigarettes for smoked tobacco due to the comparatively greater harms of tobacco than cannabis smoking to lung health.”

The New York Times posits that “while the industry argues that vaping is not a stepping stone to conventional cigarettes or addiction, some anti-smoking advocates contend that young people become hooked on nicotine, and are enticed to use cancer-causing tobacco-based cigarettes over time.”

Regardless, the evidence keeps piling up that vaping is definitely safer than smoking. According to a report in the Guardian, “although not harmless, the evidence is unequivocal that vaping is much safer than smoking. But misinformation and scaremongering could still be putting people off switching.”

Always keep yourself informed on whatever it is you’re putting inside your body and how you’re putting it there. Addicts are especially susceptible to ingesting without thinking, so do your best to curb those appetites before you know the truth.

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