Nicotine Addiction and How It Works

In 1988 the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that nicotine in tobacco is addictive.

The three major findings were: cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use are addictive nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction nicotine addiction is similar to heroin or cocaine addiction.

How nicotine works Nicotine causes chemical or biological changes in the brain.

This effect is called psychoactive and although it is less dramatic than heroin or cocaine, the strength of the addiction is just as powerful. It is a 'reinforcing' drug, which means that users desire the drug regardless of the damaging effects.

For example, in research conducted in 1994, only 50% of smokers who suffered a heart attack managed to quit smoking even though their doctors advised them to. Coincidentally, 50% of all regular smokers die as a result of smoking.

Nicotine addiction is a physical dependency. Withdrawal symptoms are severe and most smokers cannot quit on their first attempt because of these symptoms.

The human body builds a tolerance to nicotine and the effect of the drug is reduced over time. As a result, regular smokers can inhale greater amounts of smoke and therefore greater amounts of toxins, without showing immediate effects (ie coughing, nausea).

Nicotine is extremely poisonous if consumed in large amounts and most people feel sick and dizzy the first time they smoke. These negative affects are quickly overcome. Over time the body builds a tolerance to nicotine, resulting in an increase in the amount of cigarettes smoked.

Nicotine in the body Cigarette smoke is acidic and therefore nicotine is absorbed through the lungs. Pipe and cigar smoke is alkaline and the nicotine is absorbed through the mouth.

Human lungs are very efficient in absorbing nicotine which then moves through the bloodstream and into the brain and other organs of the body. It takes only 10 seconds for nicotine to reach the brain after being inhaled.

This causes several physiological reactions day. Acute increase in heart rate and blood pressure Constriction of blood vessels causing a temperature drop in the hands and feet Brain waves are altered and muscles relax. Levels of dependency Levels of dependency vary, but 89% of smokers have a cigarette every one to two hours throughout the day.

A highly addicted smoker smokes more than 25 cigarettes a day, ranks the first cigarette in the day as the most important, and will smoke within 30 minutes of waking up. Withdrawal symptoms

Without the use of hypnosis the most severe withdrawal symptoms occur within the first few days. The desire to smoke tends to be especially strong when a person is under stress.

The typical withdrawal symptoms are: headaches anxiety and irritability difficulty concentrating and sleeping hunger decreased heart rate and blood pressure craving for nicotine Other side-effects, such as tiredness and coughing, are indications that the body is in a state of repair and is cleaning out the poisons associated with smoking.

According to the U.S. Lung Health Study, weight gain for men averaged 4.9 kg and 5.2 kg. for women in the first year after quitting. Most of these unpleasant symptoms can be completely avoided using hydrotherapy Quitting smoking There are now more former smokers (26%), over the age of 15, than current smokers (25%).

The most common reason given for quitting smoking is concern about future personal health. Other reasons for quitting were life-style changes, cost of cigarettes, having a baby, and smoke-related illness or death of a friend or family member. The most common reason current smokers give for not quitting is lack of will-power.

There are five successive stages to quitting smoking: Pre-contemplation — not thinking about quitting Contemplation — thinking about quitting but not yet ready Preparation — getting ready to quit Action — quitting Maintenance — remaining a non-smoker. Drugs are compounds that are used to treat, cure, or manage diseases.

Drugs can be made in the lab, derived from proteins or made from chemicals derived from natural sources. To be useful, drugs must enter the body, travel to the site of disease and be present in the body long enough to be effective. Unfortunately, drugs are not given road maps to negotiate their way through the body.

Defense mechanisms within our bodies include special cells in the lungs, bloodstream and skin, the acid of the stomach and the liver, which filters foreign substances from the blood.

Delivery systems can help drugs evade those traps. There are many different kinds of delivery systems because there are many different kinds of drugs.

The role of the delivery system is to keep the drug in the body long enough and in high enough concentrations to be effective in treating disease. Cigarettes are designed to quickly deliver the naturally occurring alkaloid nicotine to the body.

A typical smoker will take 10 puffs on a cigarette. If that person smokes 1-1 1/2 packs of cigarettes a day, they are getting 300 "hits," sending approximately 1 mg per cigarette of nicotine daily to the brain. Many compounds are added to cigarettes to increase nicotine's effect once inside the body. These are commonly referred to as additives or flavorings, which mask the serious effects some of these compounds have on the body.

More than 4,000 compounds are found in cigarettes, and though it is the nicotine that causes addiction, these compounds do the bulk of the damage to the body. List of 599 Additives Found in American Cigarettes Some Additives and Their Effects Some of these ingredients, like ammonia, a common household cleaner, are used to increase the amount of nicotine that enters the body. Ammonia increases the pH of cigarette smoke.

This increase in pH changes the form of nicotine from a nicotine salt to a free nicotine. Compared to the nicotine salt, this free nicotine easily enters cigarette smoke. In fact, it has been shown that ammonia treatment can result in a 100-fold increase in the ability of nicotine to enter into the smoke. This can result in an up to 40% higher nicotine delivery.

All cigarettes treated with ammonia, whether light, menthol, filtered, or low tar, deliver more nicotine more quickly to the smoker. Different forms of the organic acid, levulinic acid, are added to cigarettes to mask the harsh taste of the nicotine and increase the binding of nicotine to brain receptors, which increases the "kick" of nicotine. Most drugs act by binding to cell receptors.

This binding activates the cell to some action. The more nicotine that binds, the greater the effect nicotine will have on the brain. Some additives are used to disguise the bitter taste of the tobacco so that smokers will enjoy the experience.

Glycyrrhizin, derived from licorice, and cocoa are typically thought of only as compounds to flavor cigarettes. Not well known by most people is the fact that these compounds either are bronchodilators or contain other substances (cocoa contains the alkaloid bronchodilator theobromine) which dilate, or open up, the lung membranes.

Dilating lung membranes with bronchodilators will increase the amount of nicotine that enters the body. Alkaloids, which are compounds of plant origin, often have pharmacologic properties, which make them valuable as drugs, but which are poisonous if used incorrectly.

Some examples of alkaloids with pharmacological properties are morphine, codeine, cocaine, caffeine and LSD. Tar, Invisible Gases and Nitrosamines Collectively, these compounds are referred to as tar.

Tar is the visible smoke produced by burning tobacco. Tar transports many of the chemicals contained in cigarette smoke directly into the body, as well as the poisonous gases nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. It has long been known that tobacco smoke is carcinogenic, or cancer-causing–in fact, it is the smoke that is the most dangerous element of smoking.

Minute particles of tar travel into the tiniest branches of the lungs–the alveoli–where they stick. The body works to eliminate these particles from the lungs by coughing, but over time and with continuous smoking, the tar collapses the alveoli, reducing the ability of the lungs to transport the necessary gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, through the body.

Burning tobacco generates more than 150 billion tar particles per cubic inch. According to chemists at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, cigarette smoke is 10,000 times more concentrated than the automobile pollution at rush hour on a freeway.

The lungs of smokers, puffing a daily ration of 20 to 60 low to high tar cigarettes, collect an annual deposit of 1 – 1 1/2 pounds of the gooey black material. Visible smoke contributes only 5-8 percent of the total output of a cigarette.

The remaining percentage is the invisible gas phase of cigarette smoke and contains, nitrogen, oxygen, the toxic gases carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, acrolein, hydrogen cyanide and nitrogen oxides.

These gases are poisonous, and in many cases, interfere with the body's ability to transport oxygen. Among the worst offenders are the nitrosamines. Strictly regulated by federal agencies in food substances, their concentration in bacon and beer must not exceed 5 to 10 parts per billion.

A typical person ingests about one microgram a day while a typical smoker takes in 17 times as much per pack of cigarettes. The tobacco-specific nitrosamines found in cigarette smoke are formed from natural components of the tobacco plant during the curing of the tobacco.

Like many carcinogenic compounds, they can act as tumor promoters or tumor initiators by acting directly on the genetic makeup of individual cells of the body.

This genetic damage is very difficult for the cell to repair and is associated with the development of cancer.

Cigarette smoke is also a source of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which specifically cause gene mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor. In its normal state, this gene protects against cancer.

This mutation is present in about 60 percent of all cases of lung cancer.

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