Promoting a tobacco free society

Health Addiction

Addiction

Nicotine, one of more than 7,000 chemicals found in the smoke from tobacco products, is the key chemical component in tobacco that acts on the brain. Since nicotine was first identified in the early 1800s, it has been studied extensively and shown to have a number of effects on the brain and the body.

Nicotine is addictive. The World Health Organisation defines addiction as a compulsion to take a drug on a continuous basis in order to experience its psychic effects and sometimes to avoid the discomfort of its absence. It is also well documented that most smokers identify tobacco as harmful and express a desire to reduce or stop using it, and many make serious attempts to quit each year. Long-term success rates are, however, low.

Within seconds of inhaling tobacco smoke, a bolus of nicotine travels from the alveoli to the brain where the molecules bind to nicotine receptors. This results in dopamine secretion that caused pleasurable sensations and relief of symptoms of nicotine deprivation. Nicotine replacement therapy mimics but does not match the intense effects caused by nicotine in tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoking is the most prevalent form of nicotine addiction. Through inhaling smoke, the average smoker takes in 1 to 2 mg nicotine per cigarette which reaches the brain within 10 - 20 seconds. However, the acute effects of nicotine dissipate in a few minutes, causing the smoker to continue dosing frequently throughout the day to maintain the drug's pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal.

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