Nicotine: What You Need to Know

Smoking cigarettes or using products like e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or vaping devices puts your health and relationships at risk. Every time you smoke (or vape), you’re doing significant damage to your heart, lungs, skin, family, and wallet. Yet despite all of these dangerous health consequences, people just can’t seem to quit.

So what’s keeping them hooked?

A big part of the answer is nicotine.

This Monday, learn how this addictive chemical affects your mind and body, and use this knowledge to fuel your quit.


How Nicotine Affects Your Body

Nicotine is a chemical that can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and flow of blood to the heart. Consistent nicotine use may lead to a narrowing of the arteries and hardening of the arterial walls, which increases the risk of a heart attack.

Nicotine moves through the body to the brain quickly, but the pleasurable effects wear off within minutes. This rapid come-down often results in the user feeling agitated or moody. Over time and consistent use, smokers develop a tolerance to nicotine, which means they will require greater quantities to achieve the desired effects.

Although nicotine is a natural occurring substance in tobacco, it’s thought to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Nicotine works similar to other addicting drugs, by flooding the brain’s reward centers with the feel-good chemical, dopamine. Nicotine’s addictive property is one of the main reasons why smokers have trouble sticking with their quit. Withdrawals symptoms are both physical and emotional, ranging from irritability and nervousness to headaches and trouble sleeping.


Breaking the Smoking Addiction

Nicotine affects both the body and mind, making quitting that much more difficult. That’s why it’s important to seek information and support as you continue along your quit journey. Support groups, quit buddies, text reminders, weekly cues, and NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies) are just a handful of tools smokers can use to work toward becoming tobacco and nicotine free.