The Strongman Called Nicotine
There are millions of smokers worldwide and this often times thrills me as I see the young and old puff the smoke on the street. Have you ever being in my shoes as well? Then here is the answer. It is due to the presence of a substance I call the strongman, Nicotine
Nicotine is the drug in tobacco leaves. Whether someone smokes, chews, or sniffs tobacco, he or she is delivering nicotine
to the brain. Each cigarette contains about 10mg of nicotine. Nicotine is what keeps people smoking despite its
harmful effects. Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette and not all of each puff is absorbed in
the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette. A drop of pure nicotine would kill a
person—in fact, nicotine can be used as a pesticide on crops. Each cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. Nicotine is what keeps people smoking despite its harmful effects. Because the smoker inhales only some of the smoke from a cigarette and not all of each puff is absorbed in the lungs, a smoker gets about 1 to 2 milligrams of the drug from each cigarette A drop of pure nicotine would kill a person—in fact, nicotine can be used as a pesticide on crops. More than 3 and one-half million teens between the ages of 12 and 17 use tobacco—that’s about 15 percent of teens that age.
Most tobacco today comes from the plant Nicotiana tabacum, but there are 66 other species of plants that contain nicotine. 19 of these are native to Australia. In fact Australian Aboriginees may have been the first people to use tobacco. We know they made use of at least 5 species. The leaves were powdered, often mixed with ash and chewed. The nicotine acted both as a stimulant and an assuager of hunger so it was carried on long journeys through the desert
With each puff of a cigarette, a smoker pulls nicotine into his or her lungs where it is absorbed into the blood. In eight
seconds, nicotine is in the brain, changing the way the brain works. This process happens so fast because nicotine is
shaped like the natural brain chemical acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is one of many chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry messages between brain cells. Neurons have special spaces called receptors, into which specific neurotransmitters can fit, like a key fitting into a lock. Nicotine locks into acetylcholine receptors in different parts of the brain, rapidly causing changes in the body and brain. Nicotine raises the heart rate and respiration (breathing) rate, and causes more glucose, or blood sugar, to be released into the blood. This might be why smokers feel more alert after smoking a cigarette.
In 40 minutes, half the effects of nicotine are gone. So smokers get the urge to light up for another dose of the drug.
After repeated doses, the brain changes. . Without it, the smoker feels irritable and depressed. The smoker has trained the limbic system to crave tobacco. Think about how you long for a cold drink on a hot day. Or how you want a sandwich when you are hungry.
Nicotine has an extremely short half life. That’s to say, once inside the body it breaks down pretty quickly. And that affects how frequently people smoke. You take a big breath of cigarette smoke, the nicotine zips from lungs into bloodstream and goes to the brain where it locks into special receptor sites. But within about 40 minutes it’s lost about half its strength and you feel the need for another smoke. So people light up about every 40 minutes or so, and conveniently there are 25 cigarettes in a pack – that’s the day divided up into 40 minute periods!
The medical consequences of nicotine exposure result from effects of how it is taken. Tobacco use accounts for one-third of all cancers. Foremost among the cancers caused by tobacco is lung cancer-the number one cancer killer of both men and women. In 90 percent of all lung cancer cases, there is a link to cigarette smoking. Others are but not exclusively:
• lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema
• exacerbation of asthma symptoms
• Associated with cancers of mouth, kidney, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach, pancreas, cervix, ureter and bladder
• Risk of heart disease including stroke, vascular disease, heart attack, and aneurysm.
• Passive or secondary smoke increases risk for many diseases including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease in nonsmokers as well as increasing the severity of asthma in children and incidence of sudden infant death syndrome
• Female smokers tend to have earlier menopause
• Female smokers who take oral contraceptives – more prone to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases
• Pregnant smokers – increased risk of stillborn, premature or low-birth weight infants
• Children of women who smoked while pregnant – increased risk for developing conduct disorders.
However, there is help for the addicted.
It is hard to stop smoking or using smokeless tobacco. But anyone can do it. There are many ways quit smoking. There are also resources to help you. Family members, friends, and co-workers may be supportive.
Quitting tobacco is hard if you are acting alone. To be successful, you must really want to quit. Most people who have quit smoking were unsuccessful at least once in the past. Try not to view past attempts to quit as failures. See them as learning experiences.
Most smokers find it hard to break all the habits they have created around smoking. A smoking cessation program may improve your chance for success. These programs are offered by hospitals, health departments, community centers, work sites, and national organizations.
Nicotine replacement therapy may also be helpful. It involves the use of products that provide low doses of nicotine, but none of the toxins found in smoke.
The replacement comes in the form of gum, inhalers, throat lozenges, nasal spray, and skin patches. You can buy many types without a prescription. The goal is to relieve cravings for nicotine and ease your withdrawal symptoms.