Nicotine Side Effects
Nicotine can cause negative side effects, including irritation and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, abdominal pain and vomiting. The side effects of nicotine are dangerous. It can cause poisoning in large doses. Vaping too much nicotine can also be unsafe and has resulted in lawsuits.
What Are Nicotine’s Effects on Your Body?
Nicotine consumption causes chemical changes in the body, and these changes have a variety of negative effects. Within seconds of intake, nicotine reacts with chemicals in the brain to cause the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline provides energy and a feeling of pleasure, but these positive feelings pass quickly. Nicotine also leads to the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine.
People usually enjoy these side effects of nicotine, and in addition to the chemical dependence that it causes, this leads them to want to experience them again. However, when using nicotine habitually, more and more is required to experience these positive feelings. This often contributes to habitual use and addiction.
Although the side effects of nicotine feel good, nicotine use can also cause serious side effects. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that those who work with tobacco and are exposed to nicotine can develop dangerous complications. However, the most common exposures to nicotine and nicotine side effects come from smoking tobacco or using e-cigarettes. This exposes individuals to a wide variety of dangerous and carcinogenic substances.
Common Side Effects of Nicotine
Nicotine side effects vary depending on the amount of chemical consumed and how it is taken into the body, but any nicotine consumption will cause side effects. The general effects of low-dose nicotine consumption include nausea, headaches, mood swings, dizziness, fatigue and stomach irritation. Other side effects are possible and some side effects of nicotine increase depending on the method of consumption.
- Abdominal pain
- Burning skin
- Dental issues
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of taste
- Mood swings
- Mouth sores
- Nasal congestion
- Sinus infection
- Throat irritation
- Tingling sensations
- Vivid or abnormal dreams
Nicotine causes many negative side effects that impact the entire body, but different consumption methods can have different side effects. For example, smoking or using e-cigarettes to inhale nicotine is more likely to cause throat irritation, coughing and sinus issues. Oral nicotine consumption, like nicotine gum or chewing tobacco, can cause mouth irritation, sores, gum irritation, recession and tooth issues. People have reported vivid or abnormal dreams after chewing nicotine gum.
Serious and Long-Term Nicotine Side Effects
Common long-term side effects of nicotine use impact the entire body and range from mood disorders to issues with sleep, cardiovascular changes and arthritis. Long-term side effects from using nicotine-containing products can be dangerous and even deadly. Some side effects are rare but severe.
Research also shows specific long-lasting effects of nicotine that can permanently impact brain development in young adults and teenagers. By causing changes to the developing brain, nicotine can cause mood disorders and lower impulse control. It can also harm the parts of the brain that control attention, focus and learning.
- Allergic reactions or anaphylaxis
- Blurred vision
- Changed heart rate
- Immune system dysfunction
- Loss of coordination
- Menstrual disorder
- Mood disorder
- Motor dysfunction
- Permanent impulse control issues
- Ulcers in the mouth or nose
- Weight gain
Cancer does not appear in this list because nicotine itself doesn’t cause cancer. Nicotine use is often assumed to cause cancer because it is in cigarettes and chewing tobacco, which are associated with the disease. However, it is the other toxic substances in cigarettes and chewing tobacco that cause cancer.
Nicotine, however, is highly addictive and encourages people to continue using tobacco products, which increases their risk of cancer as they ingest the harmful chemicals alongside nicotine.
Are There Side Effects Unique to Vaping Nicotine?
Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vapes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Some e-cigarettes contain very high levels of nicotine. For example, one pod for a JUUL e-cigarette contains as much nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes. This high amount of nicotine makes it more likely that individuals who use e-cigarettes will become addicted quickly and have difficulty quitting. Using e-cigarettes also increases the risk of nicotine-specific side effects.
E-cigarette or vaping side effects can be very dangerous. Long-term use of e-cigarettes increases the risk of hardening of the arteries, which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and a variety of other serious cardiovascular conditions. Studies show that the stroke risk associated with e-cigarettes is higher in younger age categories than the same risk associated with smoking traditional cigarettes.
Further, the aerosol in e-cigarettes is not solely water. It can contain chemicals that cause serious health concerns, including flavoring agents like diacetyl, which has been linked to lung disease, and cancer-causing chemicals. These ingredients are not always listed on the packaging.
Some side effects of vaping nicotine are so severe that multiple e-cigarette lawsuits have been filed claiming that users developed serious side effects, including seizures, lung inflammation and congestion and breathing problems. Multidistrict lawsuits have also been successfully filed against the manufacturers of JUUL e-cigarettes. JUUL e-cigarette lawsuits claim that the marketing by this company purposefully targeted youth to create a new generation of e-cigarette users.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. The chemical prompts the brain to release a hormone called dopamine, which causes feelings of well-being or pleasure. Individuals become addicted to nicotine because they want to continue stimulating the release of that feel-good hormone. However, over time the brain adjusts to the dopamine increase and begins to produce less dopamine, so nicotine becomes more and more essential to maintain dopamine levels. When someone stops consuming nicotine, the associated drop in dopamine will prompt cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Besides withdrawal symptoms, nicotine can be a difficult addiction to break because it becomes an integral part of everyday life. Individuals who smoke cigarettes or vape with their coffee or chew tobacco at every sports game create a habit of including nicotine in those activities, and it can be hard to break that habit.
Age also plays a part in nicotine addiction. Individuals who start using nicotine products as teenagers are more likely to become addicted and have a harder time quitting. They may also use nicotine for longer periods than those who start smoking later in life.
- Feeling the need for nicotine even if it endangers health or when doing so is disruptive to work or time with family or friends.
- Feelings of withdrawal when trying to stop using nicotine products.
- Intense urges or cravings to ingest nicotine.
- Irritability and mood swings when going without nicotine for a period of time.
- Thinking about nicotine products often throughout the day.
Nicotine addiction can cause physical and psychological changes and is a challenging habit to break because of these changes. Nicotine addiction can also damage the brain. Studies show that nicotine addiction is connected to inflammation in the brain, which damages the nerves in the brain. Nicotine addiction is also associated with brain impairment and chronic smokers show reduced function in almost all areas of the brain.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, so those who use nicotine-containing products often experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. The body adjusts to a certain amount of nicotine over time and when that amount is reduced, the body craves the amount of nicotine it was used to. This unfulfilled desire for nicotine results in withdrawal symptoms.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite
- Mood swings
Some people may experience uncommon side effects of nicotine withdrawal, such as coughing and sneezing, constipation, dizziness and mouth ulcers. It’s important to remember that nicotine withdrawal symptoms can feel uncomfortable, but they aren’t harmful.
There are also many ways to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Avoiding situations where nicotine use is part of a habit or regular activity, using nicotine replacement products, asking a doctor about prescription medications that can help withdrawal symptoms, chewing gum or a crunchy snack when cravings appear and stress reduction techniques can help. Other tactics, such as deep breathing and exercise, can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Nicotine overdose or nicotine poisoning happens when too much nicotine is taken up by the body. This can happen to children who accidentally ingest tobacco products or products containing nicotine, like e-cigarette liquid or nicotine gum. More than 50% of calls to poison centers about nicotine overdose involve children who have ingested e-cigarette liquid. Nicotine overdose or poisoning can also happen to adults, and e-cigarette liquid is often the culprit because it contains a high amount of nicotine in a very small amount of liquid.
Nicotine overdose or poisoning can cause physical symptoms such as abdominal cramping, burning sensations in the mouth, fainting or seizures, headache, muscle twitches, vomiting and heart palpitations. Overdose can also cause psychological symptoms such as restlessness, confusion, agitation or depression. Some symptoms can be life-threatening, such as increased blood pressure and changes in heart rate.
Immediate medical help is required for a nicotine overdose or nicotine poisoning. Nicotine on the skin should be washed away with soap and lots of water for at least 15 minutes. If nicotine has been ingested orally, vomiting is not advised unless recommended by a medical professional.
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