Nicotine is a natural product of tobacco, occurring in the leaves of Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica. It can also be found in the nightshade (solanaceae) family of plants. This family includes: tomato, potato, aubergine, and green pepper.
When cigarette smoke is inhaled and enters the lungs, nicotine is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream. Nicotine levels peak in the brain within 10 seconds of inhalation. This quick action time makes it highly addictive.
Facts about nicotine:
- Smoking was first linked with heart disease and lung cancer in a 1964 study.
- Smoking cigarettes is the most popular way of consuming it.
- Withdrawal symptoms occur as a result of dependence. These symptoms include: irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite.
- It stimulates the adrenal glands, which results in the release of adrenaline. This process is linked with release of glucose, an increase in heart rate, and blood pressure.
- It is responsible for the pancreas producing less insulin, causing a slight increase of glucose (blood sugar).
- When a person quits smoking, withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days of the last cigarette smoked. These symptoms usually subside within a few weeks.
Nicotine is known to be addictive
- Tobacco industry documents dating from the 1960s have shown that tobacco companies recognised that the main reason that people continue smoking is nicotine addiction.
- Despite being addictive, it is not classified as carcinogenic (causing cancer). There is evidence to show that it can be relatively safe.
- It triggers the release of dopamine – a chemical in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure. These feelings of pleasure are largely due to the alleviation of cravings after periods of abstinence.
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