The 7 Physical Effects of a Nicotine Addiction
Effects of Nicotine Addiction
- Adrenaline Overworks the Circulatory System
- Brain Chemistry Changes
- Blood Sugar Regulation Is Disrupted
- The Brain Reacts to Changes in Blood Flow and Hormones
- The Gastrointestinal System Is Disturbed
- Nicotine Addiction Develops Rapidly
- Physical Withdrawal Makes Quitting Difficult
Nicotine is one of the most commonly used addictive substances in the United States, with more than 25% of citizens over the age of 12 being affected.1 Understanding the physical responses to nicotine can help you choose the right tobacco addiction treatment option to break free of this powerful chemical cycle.
What Is Nicotine?
This chemical substance is produced by the tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum) or may be created in a laboratory. The nicotine definition is the same no matter the source of the chemical. It is highly addictive in any form and is usually ingested through smoking, chewing tobacco, gum, vaping, or E-cigarettes.
Smoking tobacco is known to increase the risk of lung cancer and using chew has been linked to mouth cancer. E-cigarettes or vapes may have less of the cancer-causing ingredients than tobacco, but they still contain the addictive and physically stressful nicotine component.2
7 Harmful Physical Effects of Nicotine
Nicotine is extremely fast-acting, reaching the brain in as little as 8-10 seconds.3 The body’s systems begin to react to the drug almost immediately.
The primary physiological effects of nicotine are:3
1. Adrenaline Overworks the Circulatory System
As soon as nicotine reaches the brain, it stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. A chemical energy rush is created with the classic “fight or flight” responses, including these common nicotine effects:
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Constricted veins
- Eventual enlargement of the aorta or possible heart disease2
2. Brain Chemistry Changes
Nicotine causes chemical changes in the brain, including increased levels of endorphins and dopamine. These mood-boosting chemicals stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, but the temporary effect causes the user to keep returning for more until they develop nicotine dependence.
3. Blood Sugar Regulation Is Disrupted
The pancreas produces less insulin when nicotine is present, causing increased blood sugar levels. This might feel like an energy boost, but it also causes an associated energy crash and interferes with the healthy regulation of blood sugar levels.
4. The Brain Reacts to Changes in Blood Flow and Hormones
The effects of nicotine on the brain persist for 3-5 days after using and may cause:
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Disturbed sleep patterns and insomnia
- Nightmares, vivid dreams
5. The Gastrointestinal System Is Disturbed
Nicotine also affects the stomach and digestive system, often causing these troublesome symptoms:
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Nausea and vomiting
- Peptic ulcers
6. Nicotine Addiction Develops Rapidly
It takes very little time to become addicted to such a powerful substance. Why is nicotine so addictive? All creatures respond to substances that stimulate the pleasure centers of their brains.
Especially when the pleasurable response is short-lived, a habit is developed which will persist even when the activity stops being physically pleasurable. The ritual behavior becomes its own reward.
7. Physical Withdrawal Makes Quitting Difficult
Even after just a few weeks of using nicotine, it becomes difficult to quit. As soon as you stop, nicotine withdrawal symptoms set in. You might experience:
- Headaches and nausea
- Cravings and irritability
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Increased appetite
How long does nicotine stay in your system? After the first week, your symptoms may be at their peak, but they will taper off within a few weeks and your system will return to normal.
Exploring Nicotine Addiction Treatment Options
If you’ve decided to quit smoking, chewing, or vaping, there are a number of treatment options to consider. You can go it alone, but research shows that all of these methods work better in combination with behavioral treatment:1
- Nicotine patch programs to wean off slowly
- Other replacement regimens like nicotine gum, sprays, or inhalers
- Going “cold turkey” with counseling support
- Prescription medications that block nicotine receptors
Tobacco or nicotine addiction treatment is like recovery from any other addictive substance. There are experts available to help you regain control and choose a new direction. If your loved one or you are ready to break free of addiction, reach out to our understanding team at Yellowstone Recovery to find out more about our tobacco addiction treatment program!