How nicotine affects the brain and body

Most people know that nicotine is bad for you. But do you know why it’s bad for you? What exactly is going on in your brain and body that causes so much damage and makes it so hard to quit?

Nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco leaves – the addictive component in everything from cigarettes and vapes to chew and replacement therapies. Like other addictive drugs, it floods your brain with endorphins and dopamine, stimulating the reward center and essentially telling you, “This is good. Do it again.” After using nicotine, you have more dopamine receptors in your brain, which means you need more and more nicotine to feel the same rush. Eventually you need nicotine just to feel normal. (That’s why quitting makes you feel symptoms of withdrawal.)

If you work in addictions or another clinical role, no doubt you know this topic well. Though nicotine may not create the same “high” as other substances, it changes your brain. Those changes are also linked to changes in your body, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can put you at an increased risk of heart problems, no matter what method you use to consume nicotine. However, all methods of nicotine consumption present certain hazards to your health.

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