What is Nicotine?

Pronounced as /ˈnɪkəˌtin/

Nicotine is a chemical substance naturally found in several plants and can be synthetically produced in laboratories. Nicotiana tabacum is a specific example of this compound found in tobacco plants. It has both properties of a sedative and stimulant. Some of its addictive effects include relaxing feeling, sustained focus, and increased physical alertness. This substance improves the user’s comprehension, quick reaction time, and reduces anxiety.

Here are some quick facts about this plant alkaloid:

  • You can get larger amounts of this substance by chewing and snorting tobacco products rather than smoking it.
  • Gaining independence from this substance is as hard as heroin addiction.
  • Side effects of this drug target the heart, gastrointestinal system, and hormones.
  • Some medical studies reported enhanced memory and focus by using this drug.
  • Currently, there are more than one billion tobacco smokers.

What does Nicotine look like?

It is a plant alkaloid in liquid form extracted from tobacco plants. It’s a colorless and oily liquid that is denser than water. When exposed to oxygen, the liquid shifts from colorless to a pale-yellow color. As air exposure lengthens, the liquid’s color shifts from pale-yellow to brown. Likewise, it has a fish-like smell. This substance is found to be toxic by inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption. It must be kept away from extreme heat as its flash point is normally below 140° F.

What are the other names of Nicotine?

This drug is also known by the following names:

  • Nicotine Bitartrate
  • Nicotine Tartrate
  • Habitrol
  • Flux MAAG
  • Ortho N-4 dust
  • Niagara P.A. dust
  • Prostep
  • Destruxol orchid spray

What are the street names?

The drug is known in the streets by different names, depending on the area or what it is mixed with.

Here are some street names:

  • Smokes
  • Cigs
  • Butts
  • Chew
  • Dip
  • Spit
  • Tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Ciggies
  • Darts
  • Durries
  • Rollies
  • Fags
  • Cancer sticks

What is Nicotine used for?

This alkaloid has been used for both recreational and medicinal functions. For recreational purposes, it’s commonly taken in through smoking but can also be administered intravenously. This substance works both as a stimulant and sedative when it goes to the central nervous system. Further, several studies have reported its potential medical function for treating mental disorders such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and depression.

How does Nicotine work?

Once this drug is injected or inhaled, it goes to the central nervous system and locks to one group of receptors that are targeted by the acetylcholine neurotransmitter. This substance alters the electrochemical traits of various synapses, resulting in secretion of numerous neurotransmitters. The general effect of this activation is an adrenaline rush wherein blood vessels contract, blood pressure and heart rate increase and the user senses euphoric feeling. Moreover, this substance also activates the chemoreceptor trigger zone, which causes the feeling to vomit.

How strong is Nicotine?

The alkaloid’s strength is comparable to methamphetamine. Both compounds share almost the same qualitative and quantitative effects on the user. The only difference between the two is the site where they induce the effect. In comparison to cocaine, this substance has lesser addictive potential.

In terms of body processes, this alkaloid can quickly mix into our blood after being inhaled. It can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and reach the brain in a span of 8 to 20 seconds.

How long does Nicotine stay in your system, blood, urine, saliva, hair?

Generally, this compound has a half-life of 2 hours. However, the exact duration of how long it stays inside depends on various factors such as metabolism, gene, duration and amount of substance intake. If you are to undergo a drug test, you may be wondering how long this drug stays in your system.

  • Blood test: 1-3 days
  • Urine test: 4 days
  • Saliva test: 4 days
  • Hair test: 3 months

How does one get addicted to Nicotine?

Addiction to this alkaloid is ultimately driven by the user’s tolerance, dependence and craving for the drug’s stimulant, and addictive effects. This alkaloid can be taken in various methods such as smoking, injection, and chewing. By far, addiction to this substance occurs mostly through smoking. Roughly 16.7 percent of males and 13.6 percent of females in the United States smoke tobacco and cigarette products.

How does Nicotine use affect the brain and the body?

This alkaloid substance works and reaches the central nervous system within 8 seconds. It binds to a selective receptor in the brain and stimulates the secretion of several neurotransmitters that result in increased blood pressure, fast heart rate, and euphoric feeling.

What are the short and long-term effects of Nicotine?

Abuse of this substance gives adverse health effects which are irreversible in the long-run. Below are the short-term and long-term effects on the abuse of this alkaloid.

Short-term effects:

  • Burning sensation inside the throat and mouth
  • Increased level of salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal pains

Long-term effects:

  • High blood sugar level
  • Reduced blood flow
  • Increased blood viscosity
  • Decreased skin temperature
  • Respiratory failure
  • Coma

Why is Nicotine dangerous?

This alkaloid substance is the most toxic of all illicit drugs and side effects occur rapidly for the users. It targets the central and peripheral nervous system. In cases of severe intoxication, it results in uncontrolled muscle movements, severe weakening of muscles, short-quick breathing, convulsion and worse, paralysis. Sudden death is possible for the paralysis of the respiratory muscles for a lethal dose of 30 to 60 mg for adults.

What causes Nicotine overdose?

The main reason for the high probability of overdose with this substance comes from its innate addictive potential. The main effect induced by this substance, that is, euphoria and physical alertness drives users to overdose and be dependent. Moreover, the effect of this substance decreases over time, thus, urges the person to intake more than its previous dosage to reach the initial effect.

What are the signs of an overdose?

Below are some of the evident signs and symptoms for this alkaloid overdose.

  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Severe dehydration
  • Appetite suppression
  • Severe fatigue
  • Depression
  • Impaired vision and hearing
  • Elevated blood pressure

How do you treat Nicotine overdose?

The level severity for overdosing this substance depends on the amount taken by the person. Below are some of its common treatments:

  • Let the patient take in activated charcoal to absorb some of the toxins.
  • Allow the person to get a sufficient amount of air. Loosen his clothing and turn on the ventilator.
  • Call immediate help for medical attention.

What are the withdrawal symptoms from Nicotine?

Withdrawal symptoms may occur after a few hours after the last intake of this alkaloid. These symptoms may last for a week but some may continue to experience symptoms after a few months.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Craving for the alkaloid
  • Unstable mood
  • High-level irritability
  • Depression
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

How can you treat Nicotine addiction?

Abuse for this substance is treatable. Treatment must be done step-by-step for complete recovery. You can consider the following steps for your treatment process:

  • Consult your medical personnel or clinician for a comprehensive guideline in order to recover from drug dependence.
  • There are two types of medications for the addiction to this substance: nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and non-nicotine replacement therapy.

NRT include:

  1. Skin Patch: The patch must stay in the skin for 24 hours and the whole process must last for 8 to 12 weeks.
  2. Gum: Chew the gum until there’s a slight peppery taste and let it stay for approximately 20 minutes. Refrain from carbonated drinks and coffee while the gum is inside your mouth.
  3. Lozenges: This tablet comes in 2 mg and 4 mg doses. Allow the tablet to dissolve inside your mouth whether in your sublingual glands or in between cheeks.
  4. Inhaler: This method uses a cartridge containing the alkaloid where it’s placed inside the breathing device for the patient to inhale.
  5. Nasal Spray: A spray containing the alkaloid solution is directly applied in mists for the two nostrils. The recommended duration for any of these methods is up to 6 months.

Non-NRT include:

  1. Varenicline (Chantix/Champix): This medication removes the addicting sensation of smoking in a specific brain receptor. The person must stop smoking for 7 to 12 days after starting this medication. The whole treatment process must last for 12 weeks.
  2. Clonidine (Catapres): One severe side effect is extreme drowsiness. This drug is taken to increase blood pressure in easing drowsiness.
  3. Bupropion: This antidepressant drug aims to counteract the induced depression for the said substance. This drug is often used together with the skin patch. Recommended duration for this medication is 14 days.
  • Reward System: A contingency management plan where sets of rewards will be given to the patients who avoid using this substance.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A treatment process seeking to determine the variables causing drug abuse, risk reduction methods, and enhancing coping mechanisms.
  • Recovery Group: A community-based plan which allows the patient to meet other victims and have a sharing about their experiences and success.