What Does Nicotine Do to the Body? - Part 3

April 29, 2022 3 min read

tobacco leafs

The stigmatization of nicotine has been mainly due to its association with smoking. However, as earlier installations of this series have revealed, you can consume nicotine in a variety of ways. Now that you understand what nicotine is and its origins, it is now time to move to other important matters.

What effects does nicotine have on the brain and body?

What Does Nicotine Do to the Body?

The quantity of nicotine absorbed into the body depends on the delivery system and the frequency of usage. Regardless of quantity, nicotine is only detectable for between 2 and 11 hours after absorption. However, cotinine, which is a nicotine metabolite, lingers in the urine, hair, saliva, and blood for longer. Diet, age, and genetics are all factors that play a role in how quickly the metabolism of these chemicals happens.

Employers in some jurisdictions can require their employees to desist from using tobacco even outside work hours. How are such employers able to monitor tobacco use outside work hours? A cotinine or nicotine test is used, which may present complications because some non-tobacco products may contain nicotine. Nicotine testing for employment to encourage a smoke-free work environment might be quite controversial but is still legal.

Short-Term Effects of Nicotine

The immediate short-term effects of nicotine can be compared to caffeine. Nicotine and caffeine both cause a brief rise in the heart rate and blood pressure. If chronic, the symptoms can be linked to cardiovascular problems but research on nicotine patches has not revealed any association between the use of nicotine alone and health problems such as heart disease or cancers. Chewing or smoking tobacco is definitely dangerous but consuming nicotine alone seems to be as harmless as taking a cup of coffee.

Nicotine consumption is also associated with an increase in the blood glucose levels. This is believed to be due to the surge in the levels of adrenalin, which stimulates the liver to release glucose. This is the reason why consumption of nicotine is often linked to weight loss since the increase in blood glucose levels leads to an increase in the rate of metabolism, which subsequently leads to a reduction in appetite.

What Does Nicotine Do To The Brain?

Nicotine takes between 10 and 20 seconds after inhalation to start stimulating the neural receptors for dopamine release. Dopamine is responsible for providing a sense of relaxation despite nicotine stimulating the brain. Nicotine can even be used for therapeutic purposes according to newly undertaken research. Controlled nicotine doses have been successfully used in the treatment of schizophrenia, Tourette's, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease.

When used in research studies on Alzheimer's as a treatment, nicotine has shown to improve psychomotor speed, memory, and attention significantly. Nicotine receptors aid the entry of calcium into the cells, and nicotine is thus believed to increase the level of intracellular calcium that in turn promotes the survival of cells.

Interestingly, nicotine studies have not ended with participants being nicotine patch addicts and they didn't experience withdrawal symptoms. This fact gives further credence to the theory that other chemicals found in tobacco products play a greater role in addiction. Considering that most of the effects of nicotine on the body are only temporary, it is still yet to be seen whether or not medical nicotine would be effective in the long run.

The More Your Knowledge Is about Nicotine…

Knowledge is the greatest asset you have to protect your health. Unfortunately, the myths surrounding the effects of nicotine on the body are many but this series has hopefully helped to clear up most of them. Part 4 will be focusing on nicotine overdose as well as the symptoms of nicotine poisoning.