Nicotine in high doses acts as an effective nerve poison and can have a number of potentially harmful side effects. It is extremely physically addicting, though estimates on the exact degree of addiction range wildly from very low levels to those rivaling that of heroine or cocaine.
If taken in large doses — larger than almost anyone is likely to achieve through smoking — it may induce severe nausea or vomiting. In small doses it may increase blood pressure, which can prove harmful, or in very rare cases, fatal to those with dangerous heart conditions.
A number of recent studies have strongly linked nicotine itself to various cancers. This means that in addition to the cancer risks posed by tar through smoking, nicotine itself increases your chances of developing cancer. It also means that even those on nicotine patches and gums are raising their likelihood of getting cancer. This link is thought to be caused by a property of nicotine which retards your body's ability to slough off damaged cells, giving cancerous cells more time to develop.
According to Poison/Toxicology by Jay Arena, the lethal dosage of nicotine for a 150 pound (68kg) male is 60mg. This is less than both arsenic and strychnine. American cigarettes contain approximately 9mg of nicotine each (compare with 19mg in a New Zealand cigarette), but after burning, only about 1mg enters the body over the course of smoking an entire cigarette. While this results in amounts well below the lethal dosage, over time this poison can weaken the immune system and cause fatigue and other minor maladies.
Much more nicotine enters the body through chewing tobacco and many nicotine patches/gums than through smoking cigarettes; nicotine levels should be monitored when using these methods of disbursement. While gums and patches have maximum recommended doses, chewers of tobacco should be aware of how much nicotine they are sending directly to their blood stream. An average pinch of chew held in the cheek for half an hour provides as much nicotine as smoking three or four cigarettes.
Nicotine is also a very potent insecticide, used as a natural alternative to chemical pest control substances. In most marketed forms it contains 40% pure nicotine sulfate, mixed with water and sprayed on to crops. When used in warm weather it provides optimal results, breaking down quickly to non-toxic levels and allowing for wide-spread use on food crops, even very close to harvest.
What Are the Effect of Smoking ?
Nicotine can do many things to the nervous system and not all of them are bad. Effects on the (+) side are things that are considered beneficial, while those on the (-) side are considered detrimental.
This chart shows why several pharmaceutical companies (notably Abbott Labs, SIBIA, and Astra Arcus) are concentrating on nicotine research. You see, there are effects that people would like to replicate. So, the companies are working to design drugs which will mimic the good effects and avoid the bad ones.
One effect that is not listed on this chart is that nicotine can stimulate the division of SCLCs (small cell lung carcinomas), a cancer cell line, by several hundred percent. This fact is interesting because it may explain why certain types of lung cancer grow so rapidly in smoking patients.
Looking at this chart, you can see that nicotine's effects are felt throughout the body. The receptors to which nicotine binds (see Action) are found in many areas, though primarily on muscles and neurons. The complex and interacting nature of these effects makes any precise determination of the actual cause of some reactions very difficult.
(ahn ahl gee shia), absence of pain while retaining the sense of touch, painlessness. One of the most promising uses of nicotinic drugs to date is as pain relievers.
(ahn tee si kah tihk), literally, against psychosis (a type of insanity where the subject loses almost complete touch with reality). Interestingly, the correlation between a diagnosis of untreated psychosis and smoking is very high--it appears that somehow the psychotic person "knows" to self-medicate themselves.
(ang zee oh lie sis), lowering of anxiety levels.
- Cognitive Enhancement
(cahg nih tihv ehn hahns mehnt), increasing/enhancing of the processes involved in thinking/knowing (cognition).
(ceh ree broh vay soh dye lay shun), dilating (opening, widening) of the blood vessels (vaso) in the brain (cerebro).
(eh mee sihs), vomiting. An emetic is a substance which can induce vomiting, so nicotine is technically an emetic.
Gastrointestinal (gah stroh ihn teh stih nahl), relating to the stomach or intestines. GI distress could be anything from an upset stomach to cramping of the bowels to constipation, etc. .
(hi pur tehn shun), high blood pressure. Nicotine has an effect on the sympathetic nervous system (part of the nervous system involved in the classic "fight or flight" response), part of this effect is to cause the blood vessels within the body to constrict. Since, hopefully, the same amount of blood is still going through the body, this results in a net increase in the pressure within the system (think of what happens when you squeeze a garden hose). Why is it bad? The increase in pressure has to come from somewhere, and that's the heart which is trying to pump against this. Also, higher pressure can lead the "blowing up" of blood vessels, called aneurysms (think again of that garden hose and what happens if you hold it bent for too long).
(hi po thehr me ah), lowering (hypo-) of body temperature (thermia) to below normal levels.
(nyoo rho pro tek shun), as it sounds, protecting the cells of the nervous system from certain types of degenerative disease. No one knows for sure quite why, but a history smoking seems to be protective against some of the neuronal loss in Alzheimer's disease.
- Respiratory Distress
(reh spih rah toh ree dih strehs), as it sounds, causing distress within the respiratory system (the respiratory system includes the lungs and all the parts of the body related to the exchange of oxygen/carbon dioxide). Distress can come from problems caused within the lungs (nodules, degeneration) or by vasoconstriction (not enough time for the exchange to take place).
(see zhyur), a sudden attack. Usually we associate seizures with conditions such as epilepsy. Seizures are caused by the loosening of the controls within the brain, allowing electrical activity to "run wild." Tremors and activities associated with seizures are the result of this uncontrolled electrical activity within the brain.