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Effects of Addictive Substances



Nicotine Effects


Tobacco contains nicotine. Nicotine is a drug. Therefore, when people smoke or chew tobacco, they are using a drug.

Brief History of Tobacco

Christopher Columbus and his crewman on their voyage to the "New World" were the first Europeans to see tobacco smoking. The tobacco plant is called Nicotiana tabacum and is named after an early importer named Jean Nicot. A water/nicotine mixture has been used as an insecticide.Then, nicotine was isolated from the leaves of the tobacco plant.

Effects of Nicotine on the Nervous System

In tobacco smoke, nicotine "rides" on small particles of tar. When the smoke with this nicotine/tar mixture gets to the lungs, the nicotine is absorbed quickly - nicotine reaches the brain about eight seconds after the smoke is inhaled. Cigarettes contain about 7 - 9 mg of nicotine, but because much of the nicotine is burned off, a smoker gets about 1 mg of nicotine in every cigarette. Nicotine reaches the central nervous system in about 3-5 minutes when tobacco is chewed.

Smoking can be stimulating or relaxing. It depends on a person's mood and dosage of nicotine. Nicotine acts on the central and peripheral nervous system.

The rapid effects of nicotine include :

Increases in blood pressure and heart rate.
Faster respiration.
Constriction of arteries.
Stimulation of the central nervous system.

Long term exposure to tobacco and nicotine increases the chances of cancer and results in addiction and dependence. Exactly how nicotine produces addiction and dependence is not clear, but there are some theories. In the brain, limbic pathways that use the neurotransmitter dopamine are affected by nicotine and may be responsible for some of the addictive properties. It is clear though, that nicotine is one of the most addicting substances known.

Common withdrawal symptoms in people who are trying to kick the habit of tobacco include :


According to the WHO, there are 1.1 billion smokers worldwide and 6000 billion cigarettes are smoked every year.
"Bidi" cigarettes are not safe alternatives to regular cigarettes. A bidi cigarette has three times more nicotine and carbon monoxide and five times more tar than a regular cigarette.
More than 100 chemicals are added to tobacco to make cigarettes. These chemicals include benzaldehyde, butyric acid, decanoic acid, ethyl acetate, hexanoic acid, 3-methylbutyraldehyde, methylcyclopentenolone, and tolualdehydes.


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