Nicotine seriously interferes with the function of brain and body. Let us know in detail how it works in the brain, as well as inside the body.
Nicotine is a compound present in all tobacco products. It can enter the body by inhalation, chewing or through nicotine patches. Nicotine is often associated with an instant kick, or a feeling of high, which is common with all narcotics. Nicotine is a fast acting drug that may seriously impair the function of the brain as well as the body when taken for a prolonged period of time.
How Does Nicotine Work in the Body
Nicotine takes only four seconds to enter your bloodstream. When you inhale it, it reaches small air sacs named alveoli present in the lining of lungs. These alveoli are responsible for gas exchange. They provide a surface area that is 90 times more than that of skin. This makes it very easy for the nicotine molecules to enter bloodstream.
From there it takes only 6 seconds for the nicotine to reach brain. Nicotine can interfere with the function of various organs in the body. It stimulates the adrenal gland to release a rush of adrenaline, a hormone responsible for ‘fight or flight’ effect. This hormone is mainly responsible for the gush of excitement you feel after inhaling nicotine.
It signals the body to release more glucose in the bloodstream, from its deposits. This causes temporary increase in the energy levels of smokers. Sometimes, nicotine also inhibits the production of hormone insulin required for glucose breakdown, so that glucose levels remain elevated. This is the reason why serial smokers are hyperglycemic for most of the time.
The high blood sugar levels trick the body into believing that it had food and is no longer hungry. This also explains why smokers experience loss of appetite very often. This eventually causes weight loss. Needless to say, the weight loss that you achieve is unhealthy.
How it Works in the Brain
Nicotine easily bypasses the blood brain barrier to reach brain. Information exchange in the brain takes place by the means of millions of neurons. These neurons communicate with each other through neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are three dimensional structures with a unique shape that allows them to fit to receptor sites. Incidentally, nicotine structure resembles the structure of a neurotransmitter named acetylcholine.
In normal circumstances, acetylcholine stimulates cholinergic receptors located at various sites such as brain, heart, muscles, adrenal gland and so on. When nicotine stimulates the cholinergic receptors it starts interfering with functions of these organs. For instance, it may cause side effects such as rapid heart rate, abnormal muscle movements etc.
In addition, nicotine also activates the pleasure centers of the brain and release a neurochemical named dopamine. This chemical is mainly responsible for the ‘feel good’ effect that you experience after inhaling nicotine, or any narcotic for that matter.
As evident from the above information, nicotine has a biphasic effect on the body, meaning it can invigorate the body and relax it at the same time. These effects of nicotine are mostly associated with the dosage of nicotine entering the body. This is the reason why smokers develop a tolerance towards nicotine, hence may need more cigarettes to achieve the same degree of ‘high’.
Incidentally, nicotine also breaks down at a faster rate in the body. It has a half life of 60 minutes, meaning out of 1 mg nicotine that you inhale only 0.031 mg remains after 6 hours. Nicotine is converted into cotinine by liver enzymes. This cotinine is filtered by kidneys and excreted as urine. Thus, it is possible to detect if a person has smoked during the past 24 hours by looking for the presence of coitinine in urine. Due to fast breakdown of nicotine in the body, smokers may experience that the first cigarette of the day often feels stronger than subsequent ones.
Nicotine can produce hazardous effects on the body, including cancers. Hence, it is imperative that you at least cut down your intake of nicotine, if it is not possible for you to quit completely.