What Does Nicotine Do?

Why do smokers turn to cigarettes when stressed or in a bad mood? Nicotine relieves stress, makes smokers feel calmer, and gives them relaxation feelings. Nicotine reduces anxiety and sometimes pain. Hence, smokers often turn to cigarettes when stressed even though its relaxation feelings are temporary.

What Does Nicotine Do to Your Body?

Nicotine has different effects on different parts of the body as outlined below.

1. Brain

The brain consists of billions of nerve cells that communicate by neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers. Each neurotransmitter fits into a receptor like a lock and key. Receptors are located on the surfaces of nerve cells. The receptor’s nerve cell is activated when a neurotransmitter locates its receptor.

The nicotine molecule looks like a neurotransmitter referred to as acetylcholine. The functions of acetylcholine and its receptors include memory, breathing, muscle movement, heart rate and learning. Another function is releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that determine an individual’s appetite and mood among other things.

Pleasure Feelings but Negative Effects

Nicotine increases dopamine levels in the brain that release feelings of reward and pleasure. Dopamine causes other drug additions including heroin and cocaine. Increases in the levels of dopamine play a major role in many addictions including smoking.

Nicotine reaches the brain quickly and causes tobacco addiction. Although it produces pleasure feelings, it has side effects including moodiness, anxiety, depression, and nervousness. Smoking tobacco for a long time may cause dizziness and headaches.

2. Mouth

Smoking tobacco causes a bad breath and stains your teeth. It is associated with throat and mouth cancer and bleeding gums or the gum disease. Tobacco also affects your taste buds such that you cannot determine the taste of different foods.

3. Heart

What does nicotine do to the heart? Tobacco increases your blood pressure and heart rate. It may lead to a heart attack or other heart disease. Your heart works harder when you try some physical exercises or playing your favorite sports.

4. Lungs

Smoking causes breathing difficulties because it damages your lungs. You may experience frequent coughs with mucous or phlegm. Tobacco increases the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks. In addition, it is associated with lung cancer and lung disease or emphysema.

5. Skin

Tobacco’s smell remains in your skin long after you stop smoking. Smoking causes wrinkles and makes your skin yellow and dry.

6. Muscles

Smoking tobacco restricts the flow of oxygen and blood to your muscles. This causes more pain in your muscles when exercising or playing sports.

7. Other Side Effects

Nicotine narrows the arteries while carbon dioxide decreases the level of oxygen in the blood. The effects lead to an imbalance between the amount of oxygen that the blood supplies and the cells’ demand for oxygen. Other effects of smoking include increasing hormones in the body, glucose, and fatty acids.

Nicotine and Cancer

The belief that nicotine in tobacco causes cancer is very popular but erroneous. Those who believe this notion try to quit smoking through nicotine replacement therapies. Nicotine causes tobacco addiction but not cancer. Cancer results from other substances that make tobacco. However, nicotine affects the activities of cancer and normal cells. It causes tumors in animals to grow and spread but there is no evidence of the same effect in human beings.

How to Quit It

After answering the question, "what does nicotine do to your body?" it is important to learn how to break nicotine addiction.

1. Go for Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Some of the NRT remedies that are available by prescription include nicotine nasal spray, varenicline (Chantix), nicotine inhaler, and bupropion (Zyban).Over-the-counter NRT types include lozenges, patches, and gum. Using more than one over-the-counter NRT has no significant side effects. You can use an additional NRT when you slip instead of smoking.

2. Avoid Trigger Situations and Places

Avoid all the situations and places in which you chewed or smoked tobacco often. These may include watching television, parties, or your car. You must identify the trigger situations first and then avoid them or learn how to overcome your tobacco craving in those situations.

3. Delay Using Tobacco

Whenever you feel like giving into your craving for tobacco, delay or wait for some minutes before smoking. Find another activity to keep you occupied in that period.

4. Chewing

Chewing keeps your mouth occupied. You can chew something satisfying and crunchy such as hard candy, raw carrots, sugarless gum, sunflower seeds, celery, or nuts.

5. Physical Activities

Physical activities will reduce the intensity of your tobacco cravings and distract you from them. You can jog or walk, walk up and down the stairs, or try squats, pushups, deep knee bends, or running in place. Other distractions include chores such as filing paper work, vacuum cleaning, needlework, journaling, woodwork, and prayer.

6. Seek Alternative Relaxation Techniques

If you have been dealing with stress through smoking, try other ways of relaxing your mind. You can try relaxation techniques such as yoga, massage, hypnosis, deep-breathing exercises, visualization, and muscle relaxation.

7. Seek Help

Involve your friend, family or a support group in the process. Their moral support through phone calls, chats, and meetings will help you stop your addiction.

8. Focus on the Benefits

Ask yourself, what does nicotine do to my body? Why do I need to stop smoking? List down all the benefits such as improving your health, saving money, feeling better, and reducing secondhand smoking.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Nicotine dependence makes smokers addicted to tobacco products. Those who try to quit experience withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Coughing
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Strong smoking cravings
  • Headache
  • Depression

People who smoke higher volumes of nicotine or use many cigarettes in a day and those who have used nicotine for a long period experience the worst withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms may be worse at certain places and at different times of the day. This is because your mind associates certain times, places and people with smoking unconsciously. Hence, those times, places and people will trigger smoking cravings.

 
 
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