Smokers know that tobacco products can be detrimental to their health, but stopping isn’t as simple as it seems due to the long-lasting, gripping addictive qualities of nicotine. But what makes nicotine infamous for its quick onset of dependency to those who try it? The answer lies in the way nicotine acts on the brain and the body.
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?
Although nicotine is often seen as a short-term drug, the effects of this substance on the body and brain are long-lasting. The chemical components of nicotine can be detected in the body for as long as three months following the cessation of use.
When nicotine is taken into the body, its effects can be felt almost immediately. In fact, when compared to other substances, nicotine can enter the brain in a matter of seconds. With that in mind, the amount of time that nicotine stays in your system is highly dependent on the speed at which it is metabolized. In that sense, the speed of metabolism is dependent on the individual and can be changed by factors such as diet, health, and medication.
Nicotine Outside of the Body
Nicotine does not require an active presence in the body in order to have its effects. Even in the absence of nicotine, the body can still feel the effects of this drug.
When nicotine is not being actively used, nicotine builds up in the body as a byproduct of nicotine breakdown. This buildup of nicotine in the body can continue to have a very real effect on the body, brain, and emotions of the user.
The effects of nicotine outside of its presence in the body are more subtle than those that are felt within the body but can still be damaging and detrimental to one’s health.
What are the Different Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms?
After using nicotine for a long period of time, the body has become dependent on this drug. But when nicotine is not present in the body, the body can feel the effects of withdrawal, which often causes the individual to engage in smoking again in order to feel better.
Withdrawal symptoms can be painful and uncomfortable, and have adverse effects on a person’s life. So, what are the most common nicotine withdrawal symptoms?
- Increased appetite;
- Heart palpitations;
- Cravings for nicotine;
- Lack of concentration;
- Decreased energy levels; and
- Increased appetite.
Keep in mind that these withdrawal symptoms could be different for every individual and that their severity could also differ from person to person.
How Nicotine Works
Nicotine is found in many different plants, and the role of this chemical in each plant differs. In tobacco leaves, nicotine is a primary defense tactic to keep from being eaten by a herbivore. It does this by paralyzing the muscles of the creature, causing them to lose their eating grip and drop the plant.
In other plants, nicotine is found in much higher concentrations and is used as a deterrent for pollination by other plants. When nicotine enters the bloodstream, it is broken down into its chemical components. Much of the nicotine in tobacco products is released as a vapor, which is why it is so easy for smokers to inhale nicotine in a short amount of time.
Why is Nicotine Addictive?
Nicotine is the addictive component in tobacco products and is one of the primary reasons people struggle to quit after trying. The way nicotine works on the body and brain to create dependency is very complex, and can be easily understood by breaking it down into the following factors
Nicotine as a Brain Drug
Nicotine acts on the brain, causing a release of dopamine, which is a chemical messenger that is responsible for the brain’s “reward center.” Nicotine is a highly stimulating substance, and when it is taken into the brain it has an immediate effect of stimulating pleasure, relaxation, and satisfaction.
Nicotine also acts on the body as a stimulant, causing the body to enter into a state of readiness for action. In the presence of nicotine, the body feels stronger, quicker, and more capable. The combination of these feelings can cause the user to seek out more of this substance in order to continue experiencing the effects.
What is Nicotine Poisoning?
Nicotine poisoning is the result of an overdose of nicotine, which can occur if a person smokes too much tobacco in a short period of time. This overdose is dangerous because of the stimulant effects that nicotine has on the body. In high doses, nicotine can cause the body to go into cardiac arrest and respiratory failure, which can cause fatality.
To treat nicotine poisoning, the individual should be taken to the emergency room and given a dose of naloxone, which will reverse the effects of nicotine in the body. Once the effects have been reversed, the individual should be monitored to ensure the safety of their heart and brain.
Other symptoms of nicotine poisoning, in addition to the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, include:
- Dizziness; and
It is important to note that nicotine poisoning is a highly serious condition and that it should be treated immediately.
How Long Does Nicotine Poisoning Last?
The effects of nicotine poisoning can cause the individual to go into a state of shock, and can even lead to cardiac arrest. If the condition is not treated properly and quickly, then the individual can die within a short period of time.
The amount of time that nicotine poisoning lasts has a direct correlation with the amount of nicotine that is in the system. In general, the symptoms of nicotine poisoning will begin to wane after two hours of the last use, but it could take up to 12 hours in some cases.
While the symptoms begin to subside, naloxone will still run through the body and will continue to work to reverse the effects of nicotine on the brain.
How Long Before You Recover from Nicotine Addiction?
The amount of time it takes to recover from nicotine addiction can be measured by the time it takes to get the nicotine out of the body. Once the nicotine is no longer detectable in the systems of the body, the individual can begin to feel the true effects of their recovery.
Although the time it takes to recover from nicotine addiction will vary from person to person, there are some benchmarks that can be used to determine the progress of the recovery process. These benchmarks include:
- The time it takes for the nicotine to be eliminated from the body;
- The time it takes for tobacco cravings to subside; and
- The time it takes for the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal to subside.
What are Examples of Ways People Quit Nicotine?
There are a number of ways that people can quit nicotine, and every person should find what works for them. These methods of quitting include:
- Cold Turkey: Cold turkey is usually the most common way that people quit, but this method can be incredibly challenging. Cold turkey involves the individual stopping the use of nicotine products without any other methods of support. This method poses some of the most serious risks for those who use tobacco, especially if they have been using it for a long period of time.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy: Nicotine replacement therapy is a method that provides nicotine to the body in a controlled manner, in order to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. This method is often employed in the form of gum, patches, nasal sprays, and inhalers, which provide nicotine to the body as a vapor. This method is often used in conjunction with another quitting method, such as therapy.
- Therapy: Therapy is a very effective method of helping an individual overcome their addiction to nicotine. This therapy can include group sessions, or it can involve one-on-one sessions with a mental health professional. Therapy is often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as nicotine replacement therapy.
The Bottom Line: The Dangerously Addicting Effects of Nicotine
The effects of nicotine on the body and brain can be extremely harmful to the user and can contribute to the physical, emotional, and psychological damage caused by the use of tobacco. Nicotine is an addictive drug that can be extremely difficult to kick, but the effects of this drug can be mitigated by getting help through treatment.
The biggest problem with nicotine is that it is extremely easy to acquire, and it can be administered in many different ways. Because of this, it is very easy for a person to get hooked on the substance, and it can be difficult to even realize it.
Treatment for nicotine addiction is important because it can help to mitigate the adverse effects that nicotine has on the body and mind. When it comes to quitting nicotine, it can be helpful to seek out professional help and to determine what method works best for you.