The safety and long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or other vaping products still aren’t well known. In September 2019, federal and state health authorities began investigating an
Nicotine is a substance found in all tobacco products and some e-cigarette liquids. It is a highly addictive substance found in the tobacco plant. Laboratories can also produce nicotine synthetically.
People also use the substance as an
Any product containing tobacco
This article discusses the history and effects of nicotine, its potential impact on health, and treatment options for nicotine dependence.
Nicotine comes from the Nicotiana species, which are tobacco plants and part of the nightshade family. Tobacco plants originated in South America before spreading to North America, Africa, and Australia.
Native people of these areas originally used the leaves of tobacco plants to chew, smoke, or use in religious rituals. European colonists exported tobacco crops for profit and changed the focus of tobacco to recreational use.
The tobacco industry has a
Tobacco companies have also disproportionately marketed menthol products to Black people and low-income communities. Tobacco companies add menthol to cigarettes to make them more palatable.
According to the
The body quickly absorbs nicotine into the bloodstream so it can reach the brain. Nicotine levels peak quickly after entering the body, so the feelings of reward are short-lived. This can create a cycle of people continuing to smoke to keep feeling the pleasurable sensations.
Nicotine also increases levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is part of the brain’s reward system and creates feelings of pleasure and reward. The release of dopamine reinforces a person’s behavior of taking nicotine.
Frequent use of nicotine creates changes in the way the brain works in relation to self-control, stress, and learning. Long-term changes can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when a person is not smoking.
Effects on cognitive function
Nicotine may also temporarily improve concentration and memory. However, long-term smoking of cigarettes may link to a decline in cognitive ability and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, any short-term benefits on cognitive function do not outweigh the long-term risks from nicotine use.
When people stop using nicotine, they may experience withdrawal symptoms affecting their attention or memory. Withdrawal from severe nicotine use may also result in sleep impairment.
Nicotine can affect various systems throughout the body and may cause:
- dizziness and lightheadedness
- sleep disturbances
- changes in blood flow
- increased risk of blood clotting
- increased blood pressure
- changes in heart rhythm and rate
- shortness of breath
- peptic ulcer
- dry mouth
- joint pain
- indigestion or heartburn
Certain nicotine products may also have specific side effects. According to the
- skin irritation
- racing heartbeat
- sleep problems
- aching muscles or stiffness
A racing heartbeat may mean the dose of nicotine is too high, and people can talk with a healthcare professional about lowering the dosage.
Side effects of nicotine gum may include:
- bad taste in the mouth
- irritation of the throat
- mouth sores
- jaw discomfort
- racing heartbeat
Other nicotine products may also cause a racing heartbeat, nervousness, and headaches. If a person thinks they are experiencing nicotine poisoning, they need to contact Poison Control or seek emergency medical help.
Nicotine may interact with some other drugs or medications. Nicotine may cause benzodiazepines to be less effective. If a person is taking a contraceptive pill, nicotine may increase the risk of blood clots forming.
Nicotine is addictive and the main psychoactive substance in tobacco, which means it alters how the brain works. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most people who smoke use tobacco regularly due to nicotine addiction.
Smoking is the
Nicotine does not cause cancer, but tobacco smoke contains at least 69 chemicals that are carcinogenic, meaning they are cancer-causing chemicals.
Are e-cigarettes and vaporizers safe?
Electronic nicotine delivery systems, which people may refer to as e-cigarettes or vaporizers, are small, portable devices that heat a liquid into vapor. The liquid usually contains nicotine, along with solvents and flavorings.
E-cigarettes containing nicotine are not suitable for pregnant people, as nicotine may cause prenatal development issues.
The FDA also warns against using any vaping product from an unknown source or bought off the street. There have been over 1,000 reports of serious lung injuries as a result of using vaping products.
There are currently a lot of unknowns about vaping, including the chemicals they may contain and the effect they have on health.
If people are using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, other methods may be a better option.
According to NIDA, a 2020 survey found that around 23.6 million people aged 12 and older had nicotine dependence in the previous 30 days. Treatment for nicotine dependency may include:
Nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides people with a small amount of nicotine that attaches to some of the body’s nicotine receptors to reduce nicotine cravings.
NRT may include nicotine patches, sprays, lozenges, or gum. FDA-approved NRTs are the
Certain medications may also help treat nicotine dependence.
Bupropion is a medication that affects brain chemicals and is as effective as NRT for helping people quit.
Varenicline is a medication that stimulates a specific nicotine receptor but to a lesser extent than nicotine. It may be more effective than bupropion in helping people quit.
Counseling and psychological support
Research suggests that a combination of NRT or medications to stop smoking alongside behavioral treatment is more effective in helping people quit smoking.
People may choose to speak with a mental health professional for advice or use psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Mindfulness, helplines, automated text messages, and self-help materials may also help people to quit.
Nicotine is the highly addictive substance found in tobacco products, and can be the reason for many people for consuming tobacco. It may cause side effects such as dizziness, racing heartbeat, and headaches.
It is also a toxic substance that can cause poisoning. If people suspect they have nicotine poisoning, they will require immediate medical help.
Nicotine may also cause people to use tobacco products such as cigarettes more often, which can cause severe health problems.
Medications, nicotine replacement therapies, and behavioral treatment can help people to stop using products that contain nicotine.