Chemical name: nicotiana tabacum (dried plant leaves)
- Contains the chemical substance nicotine (active drug) that is a highly toxic poison
- 1 cigarette contains about 8 to 9 mg of nicotine, from which about 1 mg is absorbed by taking 10 puffs
- Can be smoked in pipes, cigars, cigarettes or can be sniffed (powder called 'snuff') or chewed
- Effects from a cigarette peak immediately and then diminish, staying in the blood for about an hour
*Reactions and experiences may vary dramatically from person to person.*
Effects on brain:
- Nicotine is both a stimulant and a blocker or cholinergic transmission in the central nervous system
- Other centers affected by nicotine include the vomitting and respiratory centers.
- The serotonin levels in the Raph/é system are also altered by nictoine. Nicotine seems to have effects similar to those of antidepressants on this system.
- Nicotine also causes the release of epinephrine (usually only released into the bloodstream in times of stress) and dopamine, reinforcing the central tegmental area
- Long term effects include possibility of stroke and aneurysm.
Effects on body:
- Possible short term effects include increased pulse rate and blood pressure, coughing, bad breath, inhibition and stimulation of different motor cells in the spinal cord, causing slower reflexes and also muscle tremors.
- Tobacco stimulates activity of the bowel, making cigarettes act like laxatives for some people.
- Smoking anything is hazardous to your health (lungs, throat, heart, arteries, etc,).
- Possible long term effects include discoloured and rotting teeth, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer of the mouth, throat, lungs or bladder, impotency, heart disease, bronchitis, circulatory problems and infertility for women.
Effects on behavior:
- Possible short term effects include subjective reduction of anxiety, increased concentration, relaxation and euphoria, which is paradoxal because nicotine increases the amount of epinephrine in the blood.
- Physical and psychological dependence, addiction. See below.
Addiction: Dependency occurs very quickly with tobacco, both physically and psychologically.
Tolerance: Neurological, contextual and metabolic tolerances occur quickly. Long time smokers never feel the ‘rush’ they did when they started smoking.
Withdrawal Symptoms: Can appear within a few hours of having the last cigarette and include anxiety, cravings, depression, restlessness and irritability.
- When a person is quitting: insomnia/frequent awakenings, fatigue, increased appetite, depression, extreme irritability, coughing, flu like symptoms, dry mouth and bad breath
- Symptoms vary in intensity, but are not dose dependant. A heavy and a light smoker might experience withdrawal the exact same way.
- Reflect on how much you smoke. Is it getting in the way of other things you could be doing? Are you finding you have less breath or energy than you would like?
- Reduce the amount you smoke. Smoking less is better than smoking more.
- Smokeless products such as chewing tobacco, and snus reduce the risks for everyone around, but you still face the risk of getting cancer.
- Second hand smoke causes cancer! If you are with people in an enclosed area, open a window or door. (Also, it is illegal now to smoke in a car with someone under the age of 16 in some provinces).
- Drug use affects the developing mind and body differently than developed ones. Waiting until your mind and body have more fully developed before using substances can have long term health and mental benefits.