Effects Of Nicotine On The Brain And Body

Top 7 Effects Of Nicotine On The Brain And Body

Effects of nicotine on the body

People all over the world smoke cigarettes for many reasons such as to calm down, to focus, to suppress appetite, to socialize and for so much more. But nicotine addiction from tobacco is a serious health issue and the addiction to cigarettes is lethal. Herein lays all the danger. When the brain is not aware on how to get another quick source for a nicotine replacement such as a nicotine gum instead of a cigarette, quitting smoking can a much bigger challenge than one anticipates. Using e cigarettes to quit smoking should be considered a start but not much more. 15 years after the first e cigarette was invented many people now understand that the addiction to aerosols released from e cigarettes is nowhere near as safe as it was once proclaimed. At its peak vaping was touted to be the cure to smoking. Some people see this as a major disappointment but quitting smoking has never been so encouraged in a society as it is today. There is no shortage of alternatives for people to get their cigarette fix without smoking a cigarette or without releasing any type of floating particles than can get in the way of other people; 2nd hand vape is a point that people in the vaping community generally don’t like to bring up; perhaps because it is a hard sell to convince other people to accept lead and heavy metals in their environment.

Nicotine is both a stimulant as well as a relaxant. When people ingest too much too quickly the relaxing properties will temporarily take over the stimulation of the brain; the relaxed muscles are often accompanied with a higher heart rate and a spike in blood pressure, neither of which are good for your health. People who don’t stop smoking and who get their fix through tobacco smoke are at an exponentially higher risk of heart attacks when their heart rate gets elevated due to smoking causing blood clots that block arteries partially and eventually completely.

Here are the top 7 benefits that people get when using a nicotine substitute instead of smoking.


nicotine and adhd

Acute Transdermal Nicotine Improves Cognitive Deficits in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

This particular study published at Pacific University in Oregon focuses on the transdermal patch, not with the aim to stop smoking but on patients of all ages who suffer from attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). The study proves that after 7 days of treatment there was a noticeable change in the learning abilities associated with people with ADHD. When it came for impulses, the main breaker of attention span in people with ADHD, the study found it took no more than 45 minutes to notice an improvement and calls it a “viable option in the future”.

Healthy Subjects With Extreme Patterns of Performance Differ in Functional Network Topology and Benefits From Nicotine

This next study is one of the most recent ones published this year (2020) and goes into great detail using different tests and measurements less commonly used with multidimensional space and multivariate data structure to be as accurate as possible. The results:

Our findings provide additional evidence that a nicotine-based treatment has the potential to improve attentional performance in a subgroup of predisposed subjects that show atypical patterns of low attentional or executive behavior and differences in local integration of functional brain network topology.

This finding may also be of relevance for other disorders such as mild cognitive impairment […]resulted in improved attention, memory and psychomotor speed (Newhouse et al., 2012) or the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in patients with schizophrenia (Tregellas and Wylie, 2019).”

#2 Cognition (Nootropic Effects)

Nicotine improves cognition by increasing people’s average attention span as well as by improving people’s learning speed and get a stronger memory. It acts on nicotinic receptors, which are considered cholinergic receptors since they respond to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Is also works by stimulating the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus, thalamus and the motor cortex as they also contain a high number of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors? The nicotinic acetylcholine receptors modulate the pathways of neurons by stimulating the neurotransmitters that are associated with memory, learning, and reward, including, acetylcholine, glutamate, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  

Cognitive Effects of Nicotine: Recent Progress

“Attention, working memory, fine motor skills and episodic memory functions are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects. Recent studies have demonstrated that the α4, β2, and α7 subunits of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) participate in the cognitive-enhancing effects of nicotine. Imaging studies have been instrumental in identifying brain regions where nicotine is active paralimbic and research on the dynamics of large-scale networks after activation by, or withdrawal from, nicotine hold promise for improved understanding of the complex actions of nicotine on human cognition.”

Study Shows How Nicotine Increases Brain Functional Network Efficiency

This study examined the fMRI states from 15 patients using an active transdermal patches and a placebo transdermal patch. After examining the brain activity, both the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain had noticed enhanced regional efficiency. A lack of regional efficiency is usually what is missing in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. This particular point is what is exciting in this study as this was conducted on 15 healthy patients. In other words it did not simply create efficiency to counter-balance a deficiency but was able to take a baseline regional efficiency and improve upon that.

#3 Blood Circulatory Health

Researchers discover nicotine stimulates growth of new blood vessels

The findings of this study are pretty amazing. The study shows that nicotine affects blood vessel formation. The treatment was also useful to revive human tissue that was previously deprived of blood either by a stroke or a heart attack. How exactly?

Researchers speculate that nicotine stimulates the cells to then release a series of chemicals that facilitate the creation of new blood vessels when it binds to the receptor of endothelial cells. Soon after the new vessels deliver oxygen and provide nutrients to the interior of plaque deposits. This entire process is called “antiogenesis”. The study was conducted to dose levels comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day or 30 mg of nicotine per day. It is important to note that the people working on the study also mentioned the following in regards to smoking:

“We expected to see that nicotine impairs angiogenesis because it’s known that smoking impairs endothelial function,” said Chris Heeschen, the first author of the paper and a postdoctoral fellow in cardiovascular medicine in Cooke’s laboratory. “But nicotine is not smoking.”

#4 Immune Support

Similar to blood circulatory health, immune support is another property of nicotine that is less known since it also doesn’t involve directly the mind or the brain. Did you know that nicotine can help boost your immune system through a synergistic effect with another already existing chemical in our body?

Nicotine and serotonin in immune regulation and inflammatory processes: a perspective

Serotonin is naturally present in the body but when nicotine is added, together they have a synergistic novel effect that is not present when studied individually. More specifically, there is increasing data that clearly confirms the role of nicotine and 5-HT (serotonin) on modulating the adaptive immune response and the different states of inflammation and immune responses in the body through cytokines, and one of nicotine’s roles is to regulate cytokine release. Another aspect is the cholinergic mechanism, which, similar to the cerebral mechanism plays an important role in inflammation through acetylcholine, and nicotine activates the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathways.

#5 Mood Support

Nicotine On Mood

We are all prone to our emotions and feelings. Negative emotions such as depression and anxiety will wreak havoc on anyone’s life. With so many treatments and medication like SSRI’s, benzodiazepines and other novel class of drugs, finding the right medication that works is not easy, and that’s before considering the list of side effects. In clinical studies nicotine has shown to improve mood in general. This is especially true if you consume nicotine in the morning, when all the receptors are well rested and your mind is fresh from sleep; just like a cup of coffee. This study from the University of Nebraska called “Influence of nicotine on positive affect in anhedonic smokers” came with the following conclusion:

In summary, the present results showed that nicotine disproportionately enhanced anhedonic smokers’ positive mood response during a positive mood induction.

The exact mechanism through which nicotine affects mood is complex. It is a combination of its action on muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonistic activity, dopamine and epinephrine among other things. It binds directly to the nicotinic receptors and mimics the natural neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This further leads to ‘channel’ to open allowing Na + ions to pass and neuron’s membrane to be depolarized which finally excite the neurons. Using nicotine throughout the day can give you a clearer and a more positive outlook. You might also notice you do more and get more things accomplished during the day.

#6 Neuroprotective Support

Nicotine And Oxidative Stress

The neuroprotective properties are much better established and well-studied than those of the immune support. If you do any search on the health of the brain in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer, you will find an overwhelming amount of articles and studies both old and recent that demonstrates the efficacy of nicotine. This one is a good example and covers most important aspects about this subject.

Nicotine as a potential neuroprotective agent for Parkinson’s disease

Neuroprotection trials for Parkinson’s disease

Drug/compoundMechanisms of action
Green Tea PolyphenolAntioxidant
Coenzyme Q10Modulates mitochondrial function
IsradipineCalcium channel blocker
GPI 1485Immunophilin compound
ErythropoietinTrophic factor
RasagilineMonoamine oxidase inhibitor
Folic acid and L-methylfolateDecrease homocysteine levels
GM1 GangliosideImproves lipid function
CreatineModulates mitochondrial function
InosineUrate elevation
Bee venomNot known
Deep brain stimulationNot known
NicotineActs at nicotinic receptors
NicotineActs at nicotinic receptors
DeferiproneIron chelator
Granulocyte-colony Stimulating FactorTrophic factor
GlutathioneModulates mitochondrial function
PreladenantAdenosine A2a antagonist
Autologous Adipose-derived stromal cellsCell protection, repair and restoration
SafinamideMAO-B and glutamate release inhibitor

The table above taken from the study shows that nicotine is not a trivial neuroprotective agent but indeed a very potent one. There is a notably and significant less incidence of Parkinson’s disease when nicotine is present.

#7 Creativity

Nicotine And Creativity

It is a well-known fact that Walt Disney was a chain smoker. Chain smoking refers to lighting a new cigarette at the end of your last cigarette, and often using the burning tip of your last cigarette. People who follow this habit are very prone to the same faith as Walt Disney, which was fatal lung cancer. When one thinks about boosting their creativity the usual answer often involves psychedelic drugs such as LSD. What if someone wants to boost their creativity without going on a full on mind trip? Well nicotine can help in this area as well. This is through a different mechanism than the ones shown above.

Alpha waves close your mind for distraction, but not continuously, research suggests.

This time nicotine plays a role by increasing alpha waves in the brain, increasing thereby the amounts of thoughts by relaying electrical signals through different parts of the brain, and also improving communication in both hemispheres. Another effect the scientists noticed is the ability of the brain to block distracting thoughts and patterns while the alpha brain waves are increased, thereby intensifying the focus during each thought.  

What Are The Consequences Of Nicotine In The Long Run?

Last of all, even though this doesn’t count as a nicotine effect it is still an important aspect related to the effects of nicotine. To answer this question in the most unbiased way possible all we can do is rely on are scientific studies. In turn it provides us with scientific data collected that is hopefully consistent over time. The remaining inconsistent data is discarded as inconclusive. Fortunately with nicotine this process is not as difficult as it might seem at first. Nicotine’s widespread availability, history and interest make this an easy task. Nicotine was first isolated in 1828 and was believed to be poison. Unfortunately that aspect has been carried over in books over the years. Although false on its own it provides insight onto why many people still claim that nicotine is poison. Compounding that reference with the devastating consequences of cigarettes which contain trace amounts of actual poison such as arsenic, the picture becomes clearer with the perspective of certain people. Nevertheless a convincing study from 2009-2014 on 525 patients was conducted by the FDA on quit smoking patches. Here are the details:

Long-term Nicotine Replacement Therapy A Randomized Clinical Trial


To compare 8 (standard), 24 (extended), and 52 (maintenance) weeks of nicotine patch treatment for promoting tobacco abstinence.

Design, Setting, and Participants.
We recruited 525 treatment-seeking smokers for a randomized clinical trial conducted from June 22, 2009, through April 15, 2014, through 2 universities.”

Conclusions and Relevance.
The findings support the safety of long-term use of nicotine patch treatment, although they do not support efficacy beyond 24 weeks of treatment in a broad group of smokers.

Northwestern Medicine also reference this study in an article: Study Shows Longer Nicotine Patch Therapy is Safe and Effective.

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