Nicotine is an alkaloid chemical which is bio-synthesized in the nightshade family of plants. The most famous nightshade plant is the tobacco plant 'nicotianatabacum' in which nicotine accounts for 0.6% to 3% of its dry weight. For thousands of years people have either smoked or chewed on the tobacco plant and in more recent modern days, nicotine is found in a few different main forms; cigars, cigarettes, nicotine patches, inhalers and gum. The cost of nicotine varies entirely depending on which form it is bought in and which country it is bought. In the USA a 20 pack of cigarettes costs $4 to $8 with 20mg of nicotine.
In both the USA and the United Kingdom nicotine products such as cigarettes are legal to buy and consume for those 18+ years old. In other areas of the world the legal age differs such as 16 years old in Italy and Austria but 20 in Japan.
What is Nicotine?
Nicotine is a hygroscopic oily liquid commonly used by smoking or chewing on the tobacco leaf it is found in. Nicotine's systematic chemical name is 3-[(2S)-1-methylpyrrolidin-2-yl]pyridine with a chemical formula as shown below:
Nicotine produces a feel good effect and causes an increase in adrenaline release through the body. Due to the effects nicotine has on the brain it can make one feel more functional, it increases reaction time and the ability to pay attention.
Nicotine increases the heartbeat, increases blood pressure and can cause rapid and shallow breathing. It can also make the user somewhat hyperglycemic. Smoking cigarettes also has a diarrhetic property.
Nicotine can also increase levels of cholesterol which in the long term makes someone more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
Smoking cigarettes for the nicotine can create serious risks to health due to the other chemicals which are breathed in at the same time as the nicotine. These chemicals are carcinogenic and increase the risk of cancers such as mouth, throat, tongue and lung cancer. Smoking increases risk of heart disease, stroke and can cause emphysema.
Addiction and Treatment
Using nicotine has a strong chance of developing an addiction.
Nicotine has a psychological addiction meaning that when addicted one will continue to use with disregard for personal health. For example an addict may continue to smoke even though they have to breathe using a portable oxygen tank.
Nicotine also has a strong physiological dependence with users who continue to use in order to re-gain the feelings felt when using such as relaxation and the 'head rush'.
Abstinence from nicotine can cause withdrawal symptoms if one has become addicted or simply used heavily. Withdrawal symptoms often include irritability, anxiety, depression, serious cravings and sometimes over-eating happens in order to try to feed the oral fixation developed from smoking.
In order to help quit smoking there are a variety of nicotine substitutes to cigarettes. These include items such as patches, gum and inhalers. Some may also benefit from using prescription medication(Varenicline) to treat nicotine addiction.
There is also a fellowship of meetings called Nicotine Anonymous which can be utilized to help quit smoking.