If a substance is legal, then it’s not dangerous, right? Wrong! Nicotine is found in plenty of legal products that Americans consume by the millions. However, 1 out of every 5 Americans dies each year because of smoking cigarettes. Americans continue to consume them because nicotine is so addictive.
Despite the fact that nicotine products are legal, many Americans try to quit with no luck. It’s a vicious cycle that hurts both their mental and physical health. Quitting isn’t easy, but addiction treatment centers in California can fast-track recovery from a nicotine dependency.
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The Science Behind Nicotine Effects and Addiction
To begin with, it’s a well-known fact that nicotine is addictive. The prime reason is that it releases the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that sends out pleasure messages between the nerve cells. In other words, it tells the brain to be happy.
Dopamine is responsible for other feelings and functions:
- Pain intensity
- General mood
- Ability to learn new information
- Sleep patterns
- Kidney function
- Heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting control
- Blood pressure and flow
So, it’s a VIP chemical in the brain. It carries a lot of responsibilities. Its regulation is important to basic body functionality. What makes nicotine so dangerous is that it revs up dopamine production. Nicotine is a component of tobacco.
Tobacco can be found in various forms:
- Chewing tobacco
- Loose tobacco (hookahs, pipes)
Despite the many forms, cigarettes are one of the most popular modes to get a tobacco fix. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 14 out of every 100 American adults smoked cigarettes. To put it differently, 34.1 million Americans smoke cigarettes.
Further, cigarettes are dangerous because of how they affect dopamine levels. Every single time a person inhales a puff from one, they get a hit of nicotine. To conclude, each hit of nicotine fires off a dopamine response.
Hence, the brain associates each puff of cigarettes with feeling happy. Take it away, and the brain has a withdrawal from the high levels of dopamine pumping in the brain. In summary, it conditions the brain and body to depend on nicotine.
Short-Term Nicotine Effects
Firstly, the short-term effects of cigarettes may seem positive without negative consequences. However, this isn’t the truth. For example, the body rapidly changes to adapt to the new norm.
Secondly, a state of supposed relaxation from smoking is how a person typically felt on a normal day before they used nicotine products. The boost of immediate dopamine temporarily elevates their mood. It also aids appetite suppression. However, they crash as soon as they stop using it, even for a moment.
Short-Term Effects of Nicotine On the Brain
- It increases stress levels. Research indicates that people who smoke tobacco are more stressed than those who don’t.
- Nicotine skews brain receptors. As mentioned before, dopamine acts as a chemical messenger. The portion of the brain that receives these messages are called receptors. Those who consume tobacco products have fewer of these receptors. The scary part is it doesn’t happen over time. This is a rapid effect.
- It produces adrenaline and dopamine. These chemicals make a person feel alive and happy in the short term. Tobacco users are attracted to nicotine at first for the sensation it initially provides.
Short-Term Effects of Nicotine on the Respiratory System
- It restricts the airway if it’s smoked. For instance, the first time someone smokes a cigarette it restricts their airway. They might start to cough and hack.
- It causes more phlegm when smoked. Cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and cigarillos will speed up phlegm production. Each time someone inhales tobacco it blocks the portion of the body that clears out toxins in the lungs. Additionally, it produces more cells that have to do with mucus production.
- Smoked tobacco can cause a person to have an asthma attack. If a person suffers from a respiratory sickness like asthma, a single cigarette can restrict a person’s airway to the point they must go to the hospital.
Long-Term Nicotine Effects
Generally, most adults know that tobacco is bad for you. So, why do millions of them smoke it? Why do so many of them chew it? A simple statistic illuminates why the addiction rates are high. The average age when an American tries smoking is 12. This statistic comes from a journal that studied how youths acquired tobacco. Eighty percent become full-fledged smokers at 18.
A child or young adult can’t fully understand long-term nicotine effects. They want to impress their peers and seem cool. They may understand that tobacco is bad, but aren’t too worried about what their health will be in 50 years. Plus, a parent may smoke cigarettes. Casual use turns into an addiction with long-term consequences.
Long-Term Effects of Nicotine on the Brain
Long-term nicotine consumption means permanent loss of brain receptors. Those who smoke cigarettes immediately lose brain receptors. Yet, this isn’t permanent.
With time, the brain has fewer receptors to accept dopamine permanently. In turn, it makes smokers crave tobacco that much more. They depend on it to stay calm and happy.
Long-Term Effects of Nicotine: Increased Chance of Disease
- A slew of cancers. According to a journal on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a lifelong tobacco smoker has a 50% chance of dying before their time. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death. Tobacco consumption can lead to the following cancers: lung, bladder, kidney, cervical, stomach, pancreatic, laryngeal, and esophageal.
- Increased chance of heart disease. The same journal from NIH found that tobacco use is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases. To put it another way, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and more heart diseases than someone can count on both hands.
- Increased chance of pulmonary diseases. In short, a pulmonary disease is one that has to do with the lungs. This can mean chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and more. Diseases like this make it difficult to breathe.
Is Nicotine a Stimulant or Depressant?
This question lacks a simple answer. In short, it’s both. To understand the implications of this, one should know what a stimulant and a depressant are. Then, they can understand why nicotine is such a dangerous drug.
What Is a Stimulant?
A stimulant is an umbrella term. It covers a wide range of substances that increases the activity of different bodily systems. The main one they affect is the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
The central nervous system is in charge of important systems in the body, such as:
- Thought control
- Control of movement
- Emotion regulation
- Forms desires
- Controls breathing
- Regulates body temperature
- Regulates heart rate
- In charge of some hormones
Nicotine is a drug that affects the central nervous system. In turn, drugs that act as a stimulant may make someone feel more invigorated and happy. Tobacco products produce this effect but will harm the body beyond repair over time.
What Is a Depressant?
A depressant is a type of substance that reduces certain activity within the brain and body. For instance, it may stunt parts of the brain that have to do with rational thought, anger, and attention. In this way, it has the ability to lower inhibition.
Nicotine seems to alternate between acting as a stimulant and a depressant. This see-saw of emotions plays a big role in addiction. It makes people feel good on both sides of the spectrum.
Nicotine Effects In Terms of Withdrawal
Nicotine causes both short-term and long-term withdrawal symptoms. Cigarette smokers may crave another dose of nicotine the moment after they finish a cigarette. This could make them irritable, anxious, and viciously angry. Yet, this is mild in comparison to nicotine withdrawal as a whole.
Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms (no surprise: there are a lot):
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bodily aches and pains
- Weight gain
- Breathing problems
These are common symptoms, but there are many more. A person may try to quit nicotine products for a day. Often they will find the symptoms of withdrawal so unbearable they can’t stay away from tobacco. It’s even harder when people around them use tobacco. It’s doubly so without medical intervention or assistance.
Phoenix Rising Provides Treatment for Nicotine Effects in Palm Springs
Nicotine might seem harmless. In fact, it’s legal. Yet, it causes early death in many unfortunate enough to try it. Phoenix Recovery knows how difficult it is to stop smoking or quit nicotine products in general. People who find it impossible to quit should know that they aren’t alone.
We believe that nicotine addicts can forge a new life even under circumstances that seem impossible, like a phoenix. Phoenix Rising offers lasting addiction treatment in Palm Springs, California. A team of trained professionals crafts a personalized plan for each individual.
Treatment for nicotine addiction could involve one or several of these programs:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Sober living home
- Partial hospitalization programs
- Aftercare programs
Depending on the severity of the addiction, we offer intensive outpatient/inpatient programs and drug detox. No addiction is too late or severe for us to solve. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us now.