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The truth about nicotine

Nicotine is the thing that makes cigarettes both pleasurable to smoke and addictive. It is a chemical that occurs naturally in the tobacco plant. When you inhale the smoke from a cigarette a small amount of nicotine is absorbed slowly through the skin in your mouth. A much larger amount is drawn into your lungs where it is transferred to your blood. From there is travels to the brain within seconds.

Model of brainIn the brain the nicotine causes the release of chemicals that give you feelings of pleasure and relax you for a short period of time. It is the rapid delivery of nicotine to the brain that gives you a buzz or rush. The strength of this buzz depends on the current level of nicotine in the body. This is why some cigarettes, such as the first of the day or the one you smoke after exercise, are more pleasurable than others because your body has a low level of nicotine when you smoke them.

Diagram of nicotine delivery to body

As you continue to smoke over a long period of time the brain changes and starts to expect nicotine. Just as there are parts of the brain that are triggered by lack of food and drink to cause the feelings of hunger and thirst, a part of the brain is triggered by lack of nicotine and gives you the desire to smoke. The pleasurable feelings you get from nicotine become linked to the action of smoking.

This is why, for most people, it is very hard to quit smoking cold turkey. As the brain becomes starved of nicotine it reacts by sending your body signals that tell it you need to smoke. This temptation to smoke will be especially hard to resist at times or in places you link with smoking.

A popular myth about smoking is that the nicotine in cigarettes is what causes cancer and other health risks. The truth is that cigarette smoke contains thousands of other chemicals and it is these that present the greatest risk to your health.

This is one reason why nicotine can be used safely in Nicotine Replacement Therapy products like NicoDermCQ®.. With these products you replace the nicotine from cigarettes with nicotine delivered in a different way, such as through patches or nicotine gum.

It is safer to take nicotine this way, because you are not inhaling all the other harmful chemicals in cigarettes at the same time. The nicotine in NRT is delivered to your brain slowly, so it won’t give you the same buzz or rush as the nicotine delivered by a cigarette. What it will do is help reduce the temptation to smoke, making it easier for you to stop smoking cigarettes by gradually reducing your dependency on nicotine.

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