What is nicotine?

What is nicotine?

Tobacco use is one of the most widespread forms of substance abuse and a major cause of preventable deaths in our society today. All forms of tobacco use, such as cigarettes, chewing tobacco,snuff, pipes, and cigars, are habit-forming and cause dependence and withdrawal. Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco; it can stimulate or act as a sedative.

How Nicotine Works in the Body:

- It stimulates the cerebral cortex (which is the outer part of the brain that controls complex behavior and mental activity) by traveling through the bloodstream to the brain in seven seconds - which is half the time it takes for injected heroin to reach the brain.
- Nicotine also stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, increases blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate by fifteen to twenty beats a minute, constricts blood vessels, inhibits urination, irritates membranes in the mouth and throat, and dulls taste buds.

Nicotine causes dependence three ways:

1. provides a strong sensation of pleasure
2. leads to severe discomfort during withdrawal
3. stimulates cravings long after withdrawal symptoms pass.

Nicotine reinforces and strengthens the desire to smoke because it effects the brain and gives the user a sense of well-being.After a couple years of smoking, most people continue to smoke to prevent withdrawal.

Health Risks

Smoking is very hazardous to a person's health.According to the Center for Disease Control, 1.4 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 1997 and approximately a half a million people will die from cancer this year - that's more than 1,500 people a day. One out of every four deaths in the United States is from cancer. Nicotine is a major contributor to heart and respiratory diseases.

Smoking related diseases:

- lung cancer
- emphysema
- chronic obstructive lung disease
- coronary artery disease
- cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and bladder
- depression
- if pregnant, low-weight babies

In 1996, approximately 7,996,138 people were diagnosed with cancer in the United States. This year alone, close to 180,200 women will develop breast cancer and 44,190 will die from the disease. In 1997, there will be about 131,200 new cases of colon and rectum cancer and 54,900 of these people will die. More significantly, there will be 178,100 new cases of lung cancer and 900,000 new cases of skin cancer this year. Even though the numbers are high for skin cancer, it is highly curable but early detection is critical. However, lung cancer is the leading cause of death among both men and women. The symptoms for lung cancer do not usually appear until the disease is in advanced stages and since early detection is hard, 160,400 people will die from it this year.

You Can Quit Smoking!

You Can Quit! Forty-three million Americans have quit even though tobacco dependence is one of the hardest substance disorders to overcome. therapists say that quitting is not a one-time event but a "dynamic process" because it may take several years and four to ten attempts. Successful quitters say that they take a personal responsibility for their health and see themselves as active participants in keeping themselves healthy. Smokers who quit before the age of fifty cut their risk of dying in the next fifteen years in half!

Withdrawal starts after the user abruptly stops or reduces using nicotine products.

Nicotine withdrawal:

- depressed mood
- insomnia
- irritability, frustration, anger
- anxiety
- difficulty concentrating
- restlessness or impatience
- decreased heart rate
- increased appetite
- weight gain

There are a couple different approaches that have helped smokers quit:

- "Cold turkey"- when an addicted smoker quits suddenly. When smokers quit cold turkey, they are less likely to start again
- Stop-smoking programs - usually a large or small group meets with a leader who teaches how to change smoking patterns
- Nicotine gum - contains a nicotine resin that is gradually released as it is chewed to help some smokers break the habit
- Nicotine patches - provide nicotine through the patch attached to the skin. The skin absorbed the nicotine and minimizes withdrawal symptoms