The Epidemic of Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine, one of the most addictive substances, is an extremely prevalent and widespread health concern. While cigarettes are slowly dying out, as it’s blatantly clear they are terrible for your health, the resulting rise of e-cigarettes and vapes as an alternative to cigarettes is just as harmful, if not worse, as we still don’t fully know long term effects. The vape craze is especially harmful as it has caused a surge in new, young nicotine users that had never used cigarettes in the first place. Evidence has shown nicotine use in adolescents can alter brain development, and lead to more dependent addiction. More and more young people are mysteriously ending up in the hospital, to find their illnesses are vaping related.
Is Nicotine Unhealthy, or Just How You Use It?
Many people assume that the dangers of nicotine stem only from the harm induced by the devices and methods it is consumed through, not the nicotine itself. While the substances in cigarettes and vapes are definitely more harmful, nicotine should not be seen as benign.
Vapes and e-cigarettes are undoubtedly bad for your health due to toxic chemicals like diacetyl, formaldehyde, acetoin, pentanedione and acrolein, to name a few. These chemicals get stuck in the lungs through the oily substances they are carried in. And it’s no mystery how cigarettes harm the body, and the adverse effects of tobacco. Worldwide, tobacco smoke from cigarettes is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death. While the substances in cigarettes and vapes are definitely more harmful, this doesn’t mean nicotine itself, the driving force behind these health crises, should be seen as benign.
The Truth about “Clean” Nicotine
Taking advantage of this focus on the medium rather than the addictive substance, countless brands popping up advertise nicotine products like patches and sprays as a better alternative to vapes and cigarettes, such as the nicotine gum brand, Lucy, that calls itself the “Future of Nicotine.” These companies try to downplay the dangers of nicotine addiction, keeping people hooked through the idea of “clean” or “healthier” nicotine.
The reality is, there is no such thing as clean nicotine. Research has shown as little as 5 cigarettes worth of nicotine has the potential to be lethal. While there are immediate risks and side effects from doses large enough to cause nicotine poisoning, the most damage is done long term. Both a sedative and a stimulant, nicotine spikes your adrenaline and overall affects the whole body, including the heart, digestive system, even hormones.
The Dangers of Nicotine - Beyond Addiction
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts your blood vessels, in both the skin and the heart. As a vasoconstrictor, nicotine can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, and restrict blood flow. This becomes a serious concern at the rate that many people are using nicotine. Since nicotine is so addictive, it’s rare that people are not consuming it in excessive quantities.
Restricting blood flow throughout the day, every day, inherently causes damage to every organ in your body, not just the mouth, throat and lungs as through tobacco/vape use.
Diseases and complications associated with nicotine addiction are copious - hypertension, coronary and peripheral artery disease, vascular dementia, as well as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Nicotine compounded with existing causes of heart and organ problems, like in people with common cardiovascular disease, can be life threatening.
Aside from these physical health concerns, nicotine is detrimental to mental health as well. While many people use nicotine for a feeling of immediate relaxation, it is short lived. In reality, research has shown nicotine to increase overall anxiety, tension, depression and stress.
Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, the chemical responsible for triggering positive feelings. Due to this, chronic nicotine exposure causes the brain to turn off its own dopamine production, which contributes to depression and is the reason antidepressants can be recommended when quitting. Nicotine provides a quick relief from one’s stresses and anxieties, but can eventually make the user reliant on it to feel normal, creating more anxiety without it.
Kick the Nic
If you’re not already struggling with nicotine addiction, there is absolutely zero reason to start now. For those who are, while eliminating as many risks as possible in nicotine consumption is obviously favorable, the only way to be truly free from serious health risks is realizing the true harm being done and ditching nicotine altogether.