Whether you are a smoker, vaper, or even if you are using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products – we all have one thing in common, we crave nicotine.
Nicotine is the addictive substance in all these products that keeps us coming back for more – Our latest Best Practice Guide: Nicotine and Health, takes a deep dive into the history and science of nicotine and examines the potential impact it can have not only on physical health, but also mental.
You might be surprised to learn how nicotine can interact with the body and especially how it can influence a number of well-known mental health conditions from stress to schizophrenia. Learning more may inspire you to change the way you choose to consume nicotine as you progress on your personal journey.
The History of Nicotine
Most people are aware that humans have consumed nicotine in various forms for a very long time, but it might surprise you to learn just how long! Not to mention how it found its way to European shores from The Americas it calls its native home.
Nicotina Tabacum as it is known in Latin, is believed to have been brought back to Europe by Cristopher Columbus, the famous explorer credited (controversially) with being the trailblazer who led an expedition to the ‘new world’ when he sailed to the American continent.
From here it made it’s way to France and then beyond, all the while being enjoyed by many as smoking became an increasingly popular phenomenon in the society of the age. Eventually scientists discovered more about the nature of the plant, and how it could potentially effect human health, bringing us all the way to the modern era.
The Science of Nicotine
We understand a great deal about nicotine thanks to a long history of scientific studies into it’s properties and effects. Principally we understand that it only makes up a small part of the tobacco plant, around 5%, and that it is highly addictive in nature.
It is an organic compound which belongs to a group of similar substances known as Alkaloids. This group is known for their effects on humans. With further research scientists have classified nicotine as a stimulant – the same group of drugs that includes Cocaine and Amphetamines.
It can be absorbed into the body via a number of different routes, with differing levels of impact. There are a lot of factors that can influence the way nicotine effects a person which even include race and gender.
Most people are aware of how addictive nicotine is, but why is this the case? Nicotine actually has a very specific effect on your brains neurotransmitters which can have lasting effects on the way your brain and body communicate.
Nicotine can essentially teach the brain to craving it by triggering massive responses from your reward centres – one researcher has said: it would be difficult to invent a better drug to promote addiction.
With any addiction, attempting to break it can cause withdrawal symptoms and nicotine is no different. There are a vast array of physical and metal withdrawal symptoms that a person must endure in order to truly separate themselves from the addiction.
Nicotine withdrawal is so well documented that we can plot a timeline of addiction, noting the different effects at progressive time intervals until eventually the cycle may be broken.
Nicotine and Mental Health
Aside from withdrawal, nicotine and in particular smoking, has a unique relationship with people who suffer from mental health conditions. Did you know for example that those diagnosed with a long-term mental health issue tend to smoke far more than those without?
There have been many studies carried out examining the impact nicotine consumption can have on specific conditions. Stress, Anxiety, Depression and even Schizophrenia can all be profoundly influenced by nicotine. So much so, that some scientists are exploring a way in which these conditions may be treated, by using the lessons learned from the way nicotine can potentially lessen certain symptoms.
Thankfully, there are a number of techniques approved by experts that any person can attempt to try and manage their issues should they seek a nicotine-free life. From breathing techniques to stress isolation, there’s plenty to discover.
Smoking and Medication
There are a wide variety of commonly prescribed medications which can actually be impacted by smoking. Consuming nicotine in this way and indeed changing your consumption habits could mean that doses need to be increased or decreased.
This guide includes a handy breakdown of what may need to be done if you start or stop smoking whilst taking certain medications, however nothing should ever be acted upon without first consulting your GP or healthcare professional.