What Everybody Ought to Know About Nicotine
Updated: Feb 4, 2019
“Isn’t nicotine bad for you?” It’s a question we get at the shop all the time at Charlotte Vapes. You may have asked it yourself or asked by someone who cares about you. The FDA says we need a “national debate on nicotine,” so let us help you sort through the information.
Smoking kills. We’ve known this for decades, and I’m not here to contradict common sense. Half of those who smoke will die from it. That excludes the 480,000 deaths each year from secondhand smoke. The problem for nicotine is that it’s difficult to uncouple from deadly cigarettes.
The health impacts of nicotine (as opposed to smoking) are more complicated than any boilerplate answer. A great deal of research exists on the subject, so let’s dive in together.
What is nicotine?
Nicotine is a mild stimulant and one of the oldest and most used drugs in the world. It’s found in tobacco as well as other plants in the nightshade family. These include plants like eggplants and tomatoes (though in very small amounts). When inhaled, it passes through the lung’s membrane. From there it enters the bloodstream for quick absorption and immediate effect.
Your brain on nicotine
Once absorbed, nicotine increases heart rate and levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain. Drugs aren’t the only way the brain releases dopamine, though – it can come from doing lots of things enjoy. Seeing your crush, video games, and food can all release dopamine.
The brain, impulsive as it is, loves this feeling. This is how addiction starts – your brain demands more and more of the stimulus make you feel the same way.
What’s good about nicotine?
Nicotine is an interesting and versatile chemical. If you’re feeling tired, it’ll pick you up. If you’re stressed and anxious, it calms you down. For many people battling depression, anxiety, or mood disorders, nicotine acts as a way to balance them out.
Paul Newhouse, MD, and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine is one of the world’s foremost experts on the effects of nicotine. He has described nicotine as “the perfect psychotropic drug” due to its stimulative properties.
Several studies also point to nicotine being a way to increase your brainpower. We’ve demonstrated that nicotine can improve all kinds of cognitive functions to include:
Nicotine may help treat disease
Other studies show that the chemical plays an important role in delaying or preventing some heartbreaking diseases. For example, dopamine controls movement among many other functions. Doctors treating Parkinson’s disease have used nicotine in therapeutic settings to help fight or even reverse the debilitating effects which cause tremors.
Nicotine behaves like a brain chemical called acetylcholine. It’s the same chemical shape and fits the same receptors in the brain. Double-blind studies (the best, most accurate kind) have shown that this characteristic helps nicotine boost memory. This property suggests a therapeutic value for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Due to its stimulative properties, many people with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) may benefit as well. In fact, many people with the disorder go undiagnosed until after they stop smoking. They were able to self-medicate with nicotine. Once they quit, the symptoms returned or became clear for the first time.
So, where’s the downside?
Despite the many uses and benefits of nicotine, it does have two distinct disadvantages. Addiction and withdrawal.
Your brain loves the dopamine release so much that over time, it needs dopamine to be happy. Without it, the body goes into withdrawal. For most of us, cutting your brain off from the nicotine that made it feel good results some nasty feelings and experiences.
Withdrawal, as all who have quit before know, isn’t a good time. It’s the reason many people looking to stop smoking will switch to electronic cigarettes, nicotine gum, or nicotine patches. Symptoms of withdrawal can vary, but you can expect some combination of the following:
We can help!
Are you looking for a manageable means of removing tobacco from your daily routine? Charlotte Vapes can help. We’d love to help find something that works for you and keeps you from smoking cigarettes. Most of us are former cigarette smokers ourselves. We know it can be hard to sort through the information. You’ll find our locations here or you can connect with us on Instagram or Facebook!
Obligatory “please don’t get your medical advice from strangers on the internet. Talk to your doctor before taking action with your health.”