Updated on 4/13/2023
Many people often underestimate nicotine and its addictive properties, resulting in unmanaged substance use disorder (SUD) as well as disease and death. It is essential to understand the concerns surrounding nicotine addiction and tobacco use, work to prevent this type of substance use and encourage treatment as soon as possible for those struggling with addiction or dependency. This blog explores the effects of nicotine on the brain and body as well as gives insight into the dangers of vaping.
Content Reviewed by Cameron Bolish, M.Ed., CEO of PaRC
People have been using tobacco for centuries. Chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes, cigars or battery-operated smoking devices, including vapes, all contain nicotine, an addictive chemical found in tobacco. Many people often underestimate nicotine and its addictive properties, resulting in unmanaged substance use disorder (SUD) as well as disease and death. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Nearly 2.55 million teens ages 18 or younger use tobacco products, including vapes and e-cigarettes. It is essential to understand the concerns surrounding nicotine addiction and tobacco use, work to prevent this type of substance use and encourage treatment as soon as possible for those struggling with addiction or dependency.
The Many Effects of Nicotine on the Mind and Body
All tobacco products contain the drug nicotine. Although the most common route of administration for tobacco is smoking, there are also smokeless tobacco products that can be placed into the mouth, cheek or lip as they can be sucked, chewed or even put into the nasal passage. Regardless of how it is administered, the addictive potential remains dangerously high.
The effects of nicotine can be felt within seconds to minutes after it is smoked or absorbed through the mouth. It can have varying effects on the body, including but not limited to:
- Decreased appetite
- Boosted mood, resulting in a perceived sense of well-being
- Increased digestive activity
- Increased production of saliva and phlegm
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Sweating, nausea and diarrhea
- Stimulated alertness and attention
Like most drugs, nicotine has unavoidable withdrawal effects that onset within two to three hours after the last use of a tobacco product. These withdrawal effects become more prominent when an individual uses tobacco more regularly or in more significant quantities. Withdrawal effects may include:
- Intense cravings for nicotine
- Depression and anxiety
- Drowsiness or insomnia
- Feeling tense or restless
- Increased appetite
- Problems with concentration
Tobacco Use and the Dangerous Chemicals Involved
Many people may wonder what the harm is in tobacco and nicotine use. Nicotine is an addictive chemical in tobacco, which causes people to use tobacco products repeatedly. However, there are thousands of other chemicals in tobacco and tobacco smoke that make its use so deadly. A cigarette alone contains more than 7,000 chemicals in addition to nicotine, and of course, there is potential for lung damage that comes from smoking.
The toxic mix of chemicals makes tobacco (nicotine) products so dangerous. Several potential health effects may include fatal lung diseases, including COPD and cancer, among other conditions.
Vaping vs. Smoking Cigarettes
Although research shows that vaping devices may contain fewer chemicals than cigarettes, they are not inherently “healthier” than cigarettes. Nicotine in any form is incredibly addictive as it can override the brain’s reward system, eventually causing an individual to need nicotine to function normally in their daily lives. Once the brain has experienced substance use, it puts the individual at risk of becoming addicted to other drugs as well.
When it comes to teens, vaping is a trendy choice. Sadly, the impact of use can be detrimental, as these teen years are vital for brain development. Not only does nicotine impair the brain’s reward system, but it also affects the development of learning, attention, emotional regulation and impulse control. Teens and young adults that use nicotine products are at risk for long-lasting physical and mental health effects.
Treatment for Nicotine Addiction is Available
Deciding to quit nicotine use is difficult and often takes time. While it is difficult to stop smoking, it is not impossible. In order to start the recovery journey, a person must genuinely have a desire to put down the drug.
Many people who try to quit smoking by themselves will experience relapse because they hold themselves accountable for their substance use alone. To have the best chance of recovering from active addiction, one must be willing to be held responsible by other peers, family members and health professionals. This necessary accountability is best achieved through an intimate treatment program.
Another thing to consider is how the individual was exposed to tobacco use in the first place. If their peer group regularly smokes or vapes, they will be more likely to do so. Similarly, if they are trying to quit, they will be tempted to resume smoking once they are surrounded by their peer group continuing to smoke. In this case, it may be best for individuals who want to leave nicotine behind to create space between themselves and their peer group.
Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC) is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center that offers specialized treatment programs. We recognize the impact that nicotine can have on people of all ages, so we create individualized treatment programs for all of our patients. The health consequences of tobacco are entirely preventable. For treatment or more information about nicotine addiction, call us today at (713) 939-7272.