There have been many reports that have dealt with the issue of what does nicotine do to the human body? Essentially, nicotine is an extremely powerful alkaloid that is contained in the nightshade plant family. It is considered as a powerful neurotoxin and is contained in a number of commercially available pesticides because of its devastating effects on insects, which are almost instantaneously killed upon contact.
This is primarily because nicotine can move directly into the blood vessels lining the tissues and travel the bloodstream right into the brain and other body organs. The fastest and most common way that nicotine enters the bloodstream is via inhalation like in smoking tobacco cigarettes. It is averred that nicotine does not stay in the body system for a long time and can have a half-life of approximately 60 minutes.
This means that within six hours after smoking a tobacco cigarette, only approximately 0.031 mg of nicotine that has been inhaled during smoking remains in the body system. Despite of this, there is immense importance to understand, what does nicotine do to the human body?
- Seeps into the bloodstream to cause damage.
When asked what does nicotine do? One of the most common answers is that it enters the human body through the lungs during smoking. Essentially, the human lungs are lined with millions of alveoli, which are tiny air sacs that allow gas exchange to occur. The alveoli occupy a huge surface that is almost 90 times bigger than what the human skin occupies. This means that it gives nicotine and other compounds found in tobacco smoke a huge passageway to enter the body system.
Being absorbed in the lungs allows nicotine to enter the bloodstream and immediately goes to the brain. It is equally important to be aware that nicotine will take numerous different actions when inside the body system. The effects that it presents to the brain are translated in both the good and bad feeling every smoker experiences including irritability. Nicotine works extremely fast; allowing it to exhibit its effects within 10 to 15 seconds after it has been inhaled by the smoker.
- Lower incidence of brain diseases.
In most instances when contending with the concern of what does nicotine do, the answers always seem to come in the negative. However, during the past decade, there have been some new discoveries that have stemmed from research that revealed nicotine actually can present some positive effects on the human brain. Surprising as it may seem, some researches revealed that smokers had a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to researches, this is made possible by a compound known as acetylcholine. The structure of nicotine is basically similar to the compound which is considered as a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. Nicotine has the ability to bind to nerve receptors allowing the nerve cells to fire more frequently than usual. One study took a group of Alzheimer’s patients and gave them nicotine patches and another group received placebo.
The result showed those who received nicotine patches had their cognitive abilities intact longer and at times even recovered cognitive functions they had lost. A follow-up study also indicated that there is a possibility of cognitive abilities of elderly people being boosted even if they are experiencing mental decline only and not Alzheimer’s. Since nicotine patches were designed to help quit smoking, these findings are opening up new avenues of studies.
A study conducted in 1982 on patients with ulcerative colitis showed that they had fewer flare-ups when given nicotine. However, the problem is that some side effects associated with excessive exposure to nicotine made it a poor choice as long-term treatment solutions.
- Boosts growth of new blood vessels.
The commonly accepted belief is that nicotine contributes to the clogging of the blood vessels of the smoker by accelerating the production of cholesterol. However, a study conducted at Stanford in 2000 delivered some surprising and unexpected results on the effects of nicotine on the blood vessels. The study revealed that contrary to popular belief, nicotine actually contributed to boosting the growth of new blood vessels.
The importance of this study is highlighted by the possibilities that it presents in the potentially new ways that diabetes can be treated. People who are suffering from severe diabetes normally experience poor blood circulation because of clogged blood vessels. This condition can eventually result in gangrene and subsequently amputation of the limbs, which is a common occurrence with diabetics.
- Decreased depressive feelings.
Another uncommon finding that responds to the concern of what does nicotine do, is based on a 2006 study made by scientists from Duke University. The study found that people suffering from depression and treated with nicotine patches exhibited decreased depressive feelings. Some health experts believe that this is not surprising because nicotine has been closely associated with the increased production of two important neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine.
Essentially, a lack of supply of serotonin or dopamine can result in depression. This is a potentially positive aspect which contributes to other findings that show potential health benefits from the use of nicotine. Unfortunately, the main problem that exists is the lack of adequate delivery system to separate the carcinogenic and toxic effects to the body. Many of the nicotine related drugs can be beneficial but pose significant side effects that can be equal to those of smoking.
Since it is never recommended to take up smoking, chew tobacco, or use patches for health reasons, the delivery system remains a huge challenge. This is especially true for people with pre-existing medical conditions that can be aggravated by exposure to tobacco. This is the reason why some studies are looking at the possibility of using the principle of electronic cigarettes which can deliver nicotine contents without the harmful chemicals and carcinogenic compounds.
- Nicotine withdrawal.
This is an unpleasant and long process that can take anywhere from several days to a number of weeks. The symptoms that are commonly associated with this condition are nausea, headaches, loss of concentration, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. This condition is normally manifested in nicotine addicts and can be comparable to the withdrawal symptoms of people hooked on heroin. All of these are of course speculations, because there are people who can quit smoking without the ill effects.
Considering that the amount of nicotine found in 3 to 4 cigarettes can be enough to fatally poison a healthy human adult, the need to address the concern of what does nicotine do becomes extremely important.