Nicotine in the body: what is nicotine? Effect, overdose, side effects
The stupid idea of smoking herbal toxins
Those who smoke cigarettes ingest the plant toxin nicotine it contains. More precisely, it is the strong poison of the tobacco plant that Columbus brought to Europe from America in 1492. Nowadays nicotine is also used as a pesticide, for example against aphids, due to its toxic strength.
If you want to know why people still got the idea to smoke tobacco plants with their strong poison nicotine, how it comes to nicotine addiction and, above all, how effective smoking cessation works, you should read the following text carefully.
What is nicotine? – An explanation
read more about ingredients of a cigarette
Many smokers at some point ask themselves the question: what is nicotine? As already clarified, nicotine is a neurotoxin that is produced in the roots of the tobacco plant. The original function there was to ward off predators such as insects. So when people smoke a cigarette, they absorb deadly insect repellent into their bodies.
When Is Nicotine Deadly?
If the dose of this toxic substance is too high, it will cause symptoms of intoxication in the body. Especially with children there is even a mortal danger if they accidentally swallow a cigarette (or a nicotine-containing liquid from the e-cigarette).
The lethal dose for an adult is 6.5 to 13 mg per kg of body weight. A leaf of the tobacco plant contains approx. 12 to 20 mg of nicotine. There is a limit value for the nicotine content of smoke in cigarettes in Europe, which is 1 mg nicotine. Incidentally, a chain smoker consumes 20 to 40 mg of nicotine per day.
Do you remember what your first cigarette was like?
If you ask a smoker how he is feeling with his first cigarette, you always get the same answer: “That wasn’t good at all, didn’t taste at all, I had to cough and it was really disgusting.” Answers to this question. A clear sign from the body that it has something against this neurotoxin. And rightly so, when you consider that it is also an insecticide.
Even so, many ignore this message from the body and continue smoking until they become addicted. Nicotine also plays an important role in the body and especially in the brain.
Now I ask you: Do you know exactly why you smoke and why you are dependent on this substance, which is actually so bad and incompatible with the body? Answers can be found in the next section.
How does nicotine work: what does nicotine do in the body?
Have you ever wondered what nicotine does in the body? Here is the answer: When you smoke, nicotine gets into the bloodstream and is transported to the brain. This process only takes about 7 to 10 seconds.
The link between nicotine and dopamine
Nicotine is one of the few substances that manages to overcome the brain. The so-called blood-brain barrier is actually there to protect the brain from poisoning (e.g. from nicotine). The nicotine docks on the so-called achethycholine receptors within a short time and promotes the release of happiness-promoting hormones (e.g. dopamine) and other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline and endorphins. This attack on the functioning of some nerve cells in the brain creates a pleasant feeling of calm and relaxation in the smoker.
By seizing these receptors in the brain, other substances are prevented from docking in the brain as well. The reason for this is that the nicotine blocks the receptors that are used by 50 other vital proteins. This has serious consequences for the neurotransmitter balance, the immune system and many body functions, as the signal transmission between the nerve cells is so decisively disrupted. By the way, so-called natural non-smoking capsules block these receptors in the brain and ensure that the nicotine cannot dock. This helps a lot in smoking cessation.
Nicotine: Effect of Cigarettes on the Reward Center
In addition, the nicotine has a stimulating effect on the nucleus accumbens, where it ensures the release of catecholamine. Vital processes such as sex or ingesting food also stimulate this part of the brain in order to ensure the repetition of these vital actions. The nucleus accumbens is therefore also known as the reward center. The brain also wrongly classifies nicotine as essential for survival.
Myth: nicotine and more focus
According to many smokers, a supposedly positive effect of smoking is an increased ability to concentrate. However, experts agree that the ability to concentrate is only created through the habit of smoking. Specifically, this means that when the nicotine level in the blood drops, a kind of “deficiency” arises, which makes the person concerned restless. After this “deficiency” has been eliminated, the ability to concentrate also returns.
This phenomenon can be summarized as follows: “The smoker feels with a cigarette just like a non-smoker feels without a cigarette.”
Too Much Nicotine: Is Nicotine Carcinogenic?
The question of whether nicotine is carcinogenic cannot be answered that quickly.
Basically, it is about clarifying whether pure nicotine, i.e. without the other additives in a cigarette, can be the trigger for cancer. Research suggests a connection between nicotine and tumor growth, as nicotine promotes cell proliferation. This is said to be the case above all with cancer cells, especially lung cancer cells. In addition, nicotine is said to make the cells more resistant to chemotherapy, since the breakdown products of nicotine prevent “programmed cell death” in the metabolism. The growth of cancer cells is thus promoted by the nicotine. However, research has only found this in certain types of cells.
In general it can be said that no answer has yet been found to the question of whether pure nicotine is really carcinogenic. There is simply not enough data for humans to be able to make a universal decision.
In 2009 it was observed in mice with cancer that the nicotine caused tumors and metastases to grow faster than in the comparison group without nicotine. However, the daily dose was three to five times as high as in humans. In mice with the actual daily nicotine dose of a nicotine patch, the mice did not become ill.
Nicotine Side Effects and Symptoms: Smoked Too Many Cigarettes?
If you smoke too much, you will quickly notice what nicotine does to the body. The following side effects also occur with “reasonable” consumption of cigarettes. However, if you smoke too much, you risk an overdose with the associated nicotine side effects.
Metabolism, adrenaline, blood pressure: effects of nicotine
Nicotine has a huge impact on metabolism. This is accelerated, as the digestion is stimulated by increased gastric juice production and stronger bowel activity. Fats and blood sugar are also broken down more quickly due to the influence of nicotine in the body. The result: smokers have to go to the toilet more often.
It also increases the frequency of breathing and sensitivity to pain. In addition to releasing adrenaline, which increases the heart rate, nicotine also constricts blood vessels, which can lead to irreparable damage. Another side effect of nicotine is that it increases blood pressure and clots, which can cause thrombosis (blockage of blood vessels with blood clots).
Yellow fingers and teeth: – Another nicotine side effect?
Yellow fingers and teeth are not a side effect of nicotine: The effect of nicotine is limited to the points mentioned above. The yellow spots that often occur in smokers are therefore not due to the effects of nicotine, but to the tar that is contained in cigarettes.
Nicotine as a luxury food: Deadly enjoyment
Nicotine is used for two things these days: insect repellent and as a luxury food. It doesn’t go well together, but it’s a fact. In the following, however, it will be about the nicotine in cigarettes.
Nicotine in cigarettes: what else is there and why?
In addition to nicotine and the actual tobacco, more than 600 known additives are added to cigarettes today.
These additions usually have one of three tasks:
- They serve as a preservative
- They serve as a moisturizer
- They are designed to improve the smoking experience
The best-known additive is probably menthol. But there are also natural substances such as cocoa, lactic acid or liquorice to be found in cigarettes. Basically, cocoa has the good property that the airways are widened. In combination with cigarettes, however, this means that the cigarette smoke can be inhaled more deeply through the stretched airways, which has been shown to damage the lungs more.
In order to improve the smoking experience, sugars are usually added. This is considered to be the most common additive, because by using a bio-chemical process in the brain, the smoking experience should be made more intense overall. However, this assumption has not yet been proven. Instead, it is known that burning sugar produces aldehydes, which attack the human mucous membranes.
Are these additives in the cigarette harmful?
The question of whether the substances in a cigarette are really harmful is not so easy to answer. It is currently certain that the problem is not necessarily the added substances. Their interactions with other tobacco substances are more problematic. Lead, formaldehyde, arsenic and cadmium in particular are cancer-promoting substances that can be further intensified by additional substances.
Light brands and menthol cigarettes are even more harmful
Menthol or light cigarette smokers are often of the opinion that these cigarettes are better for the body. In the case of the additive menthol, this deceptive conclusion comes from the fact that the smoke from menthol cigarettes feels cooler and the feeling of itchiness when inhaled is reduced. However, this only results in the smoke being inhaled deeper, causing more damage to the lungs.
There is also a misconception with light cigarettes. It is a fact that light cigarettes contain less nicotine, but for this reason smokers – mostly unconsciously – pull on them stronger and longer. The hoped-for effect of consuming less nicotine is not achieved.
Nicotine Addiction: Are Tobacco Additives Addictive?
The connection between nicotine addiction and the additives in cigarettes is also a hotly debated topic. We know that additives can simplify and even increase the intake of nicotine in tobacco. This happens, for example, by influencing the smoke particle size. This can make the human organism react more strongly to the smoking experience. While improving the smoking experience and reducing the negative experience of smoking, no direct addiction can arise, but this can be significantly promoted.
Physical dependence: is nicotine addicting?
The main cause of nicotine addiction is that it only takes 10 seconds for nicotine to work in the brain. Because of this, there is a high risk of physical addiction to nicotine. Research has shown that smokers experience withdrawal symptoms after just 100 cigarettes. Nicotine leads to addiction in around 60% of smokers.
To look at the addiction factor of nicotine, we must first look at the breakdown of nicotine in the human body.
Breakdown of nicotine: this happens in your body
The pure nicotine is broken down by the liver in just four hours. The nicotine waste is then excreted through the bladder. Since nicotine is a poison, the detoxification organs are mainly stressed. In the meantime, however, the brain asks for more neurotoxins, since it has already got used to the “good feeling” that nicotine triggers. If this replenishment does not take place, withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, inner restlessness or lack of concentration are the result.
The nicotine is in the body a maximum of three days after smoking the last cigarette. After that, the physical withdrawal of nicotine addiction is already over.
Nicotine Addiction Causes: Why is Nicotine Addicting?
Although there are studies that show that a smoker takes on a cigarette an average of 400 times a day to meet his daily “nicotine needs”, the latest research is of the opinion that nicotine addiction does not actually exist. Especially toxicologist Prof. Bernd Mayer and the Swedish researcher Dr. Karl Fagerström are of this opinion. However, it is important to mention that the German Cancer Research Center does not support this opinion.
However, it is a fact that nicotine supports an addiction after increased tobacco consumption, as it subliminally contributes to the fact that the craving for tobacco is increased in the brain. This results in an increased potential for addiction, which, however, is more subconscious and, above all, behavioral. This addictive potential is less due to the desire for nicotine, but sometimes to its effect in the human brain, more precisely to the stimulation of the nucleus accumbens (“reward center”). The fact that nicotine is absorbed quickly in the brain is also one of the reasons why nicotine is addictive.
Nicotine addiction: comparison with heroin and cocaine
If you want to compare nicotine with other drugs, you have to realize that nicotine in the form of tobacco products is highly addictive. On the list of the most dangerous drugs, which was drawn up on the basis of physical damage, the potential for dependence and the consequences for the social environment of the consumer, nicotine is in 9th place overall. It is behind heroin and cocaine, but the danger of nicotine should not be be underestimated.