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Nicotine dependence and its effects

Nicotine dependence and its effects

Nicotine addiction and its negative effects are a grave concern in the United States. Regular nicotine use gives rise to physical dependence which eventually leads to addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the U.S. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 premature deaths in the U.S. every year and more than 16 million people suffer from a serious illness caused by smoking. Tobacco companies spent approximately $9.5 billion in 2013 to market and advertise cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in the U.S. And billions of dollars are spent on medical expenses on smoking-related illnesses.

Nicotine reacts with neurotransmitters to cause stimulation

The human body does not naturally produce nicotine. In fact, they are produced by plants like Solanaceae or Nightshade. Nicotine acts on nicotine receptors in the body known as nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (NCRs) which affect two main regions in the body:

  • adrenal medulla, a region in the adrenal gland that secretes dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline
  • central nervous system (CNS)

Within the CNS, nicotine stimulates NCRs that in turn release several neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that cause a brief euphoric experience in the smokers. Tobacco smoke also contains several substances, one of which is monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO) which break down chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. This is significant as these neurotransmitters produced are above normal levels and the body adapts to the presence of these chemicals by producing less of those chemicals, giving rise to nicotine dependence. This sudden rush of reward makes nicotine cravings fierce.

High levels of nicotine linked to high toxicity in the body

The amount of nicotine absorbed from a cigarette is approximately 1 mg. At this level, the brain will experience a sense of pleasure and relief. Yet, the more the nicotine in the body, the greater will be the effect of NCRs on the number of neurotransmitters released. This can be toxic, depending on the nicotine levels in the body as it can induce nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches and muscle spasms that can prompt seizures.

Nicotine dependence can also lower blood pressure, elevate heart rate, create breathing problems, trigger lung illnesses that can cause respiratory failures. This apart, high levels of nicotine, around 40-60 mg, can even lead to death.

Nicotine craving can linger on for years

Nicotine cravings can start two-three hours after the last nicotine intake and can reach its peak within two-three days. Some of the symptoms experienced during this time include sleeping problems, headaches, increased appetite, restlessness, frustration, depression and anxiety.

While quitting smoking, detoxification helps flush out nicotine from the system, but cravings can linger on for years. In some cases, craving is the main reason for relapse which can happen even after years of leading a nicotine-free life. Fortunately, cravings only last for a couple of minutes and it is important to identify this and replace the craving with another activity. Help from support groups, impeccable stress management and medication can also ease the process of withdrawal and keep cravings at bay.

Path to recovery

If you or a loved one is struggling with nicotine addiction, it is imperative to seek professional help. The body accumulates toxins due to prolonged smoking that might trigger other illnesses that can wreak havoc if not checked at the right time. If you or your loved one is fighting nicotine addiction, contact the Colorado Detox Helpline to know about detox treatment centers in Colorado. Detoxification is the first step in the line of treatment that helps flush out the toxins from the body. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-730-5807 or chat online to seek a holistic detox program at the best detoxification treatment centers in Colorado.

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