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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nack

Nicotine and its effects on the body

Nicotine is an addictive substance that is derived from the tobacco plant, but it can also be synthetically made. Nicotine has a relaxing effect on the body, which is due to a surge of endorphins, which are chemicals that relieve stress and pain, and improve mood. The nicotine reaches the brain through the bloodstream. This happens quickly, and as such the effects of it are also short-lived. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure, is increased when nicotine is in the body, and this can reinforce the nicotine use as well. In this way dependence and withdrawal are very present in people who use nicotine. Their brains can become dependent on it with prolonged use as the brain learns to expect these chemicals from the nicotine on a regular basis. Concentration and memory can actually be temporarily improved with nicotine, but prolonged nicotine use can actually lead deficits in those areas. There have even been links to Alzheimer’s from nicotine use. Some side effects of nicotine are dizziness, sleep problems, headaches, increased risk for blood clots, higher blood pressure, hearty rhythm and rate changes, shortness of breath, ulcers, nausea, tremors, and heartburn. Nicotine patches specifically have been shown to cause skin irritation, racing heartbeat, dizziness, sleep problems, headaches, nausea, and aching muscles. Nicotine gum side effects include a nasty taste in the mouth, throat irritation, mouth sores, hiccups, nausea, discomfort in the jaw, and a racing heartbeat (Sissions, 2022).

There are many areas of the body that can be impacted by continued nicotine use, such as cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and immune. It also has shown from research to have carcinogenic effects as well. It impacts cell proliferation, and other areas that lead to cancer, and nicotine use can also make the body resistant to chemo and similar cancer treatments (Mishra et al., 2015).

One area of research on the impacts of nicotine use is with adolescents. The prefrontal cortex is still developing during adolescence, and nicotine exposure can alter the synapses in the prefrontal cortex which in turn has an impact on cognitive function in a lasting way. Self-control and decision making are two areas that can be impacted as the prefrontal cortex is where those abilities develop. In society, nicotine is a more socially accepted drug of choice, and is commonly used among adolescents. Nicotine usage during adolescence increases the risk that one will develop some kind of psychiatric disorder or cognitive impairment. These people may also suffer from attention deficits as a result of continued nicotine use (Goriounova & Mansvelder, 2012). In sum, there are many risks associated with nicotine use, and it is certainly an addictive substance.


References

  • Goriounova, N. A., & Mansvelder, H. D. (2012). Short- and long-term consequences of nicotine exposure during adolescence for prefrontal cortex neuronal network function. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine, 2(12), a012120. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a012120

  • Mishra, A., Chaturvedi, P., Datta, S., Sinukumar, S., Joshi, P., & Garg, A. (2015). Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian journal of medical and paediatric oncology : official journal of Indian Society of Medical & Paediatric Oncology, 36(1), 24–31. https://doi.org/10.4103/0971-5851.151771

  • Sissons, B. (2022, July 28). Nicotine: Facts, effects, and dependency. Medical and health information. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240820


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