There are over 4000+ chemicals in tobacco smoke which cause cancer; however, nicotine is not one of them.
Nicotine is believed to be addictive because people find it difficult to give up smoking; but there are still major differences between nicotine and drugs like alcohol, cocaine and heroin. To start with, nicotine does not cause intoxication; it does not impair judgment or motor skills. In fact, nicotine is known to improve these abilities. Because of its qualities, nicotine is being considered for use as a therapeutic agent to treat conditions like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, Tourette syndrome, Obesity, Ulcerative Colitis and inflammatory skin disorders. Nicotine is also known to help relieve depression, reduce anxiety, improve concentration and prevent weight gain.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), nicotine-related withdrawal symptoms include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, decreased heart rate, and increased appetite or weight gain. These symptoms are expected to peak within a day (or so) and disappear completely after a couple of weeks. However, in some groups of quitters, researchers have found that these symptoms do not dissipate and, as time goes on, can worsen.
So that brings us to the question of whether the healthiest option for a smoker would be to totally give up nicotine. The “abstinence only” stand that health officials maintain often leaves would-be abstainers in a fix. With possible problems affecting their concentration, memory and mood that could make it difficult to fulfill day-to-day responsibilities; they generally have a tendency to relapse into the smoking habit.
Even for those who do manage long-term nicotine abstinence, their physical health is not 100% better. Recent studies indicate that the average weight gained by a smoker (after quitting) is close to 5 kilograms as opposed to the general consensus of 5 pounds. This is accompanied by an average increase in waist circumference of 3.88cm. It was also observed that the weight gained after quitting smoking was very hard to lose. Smokers who become nicotine abstinent tend to develop hypertension at a higher rate than continuing smokers; those who are at risk for diabetes have been known to develop that disease 26% more often than their still-smoking counterparts.
For those who are at risk for long-term mood impairments, hypertension, and diabetes; smoking-cessation through replacement of adequate amounts of nicotine using a reduced-harm smoking alternative should be made available. In the absence of any real harm to general society, there is no compelling reason to deny smoking-related, harm reduction alternatives to those smokers interested in ditching cigarettes but still retaining the beneficial effects of nicotine.
Follow the links below to learn more about nicotine…
1. Nicotine as Therapy – Tabitha M Powledge, 2004
2. The possible contribution of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in depression – Bertrand D, 2005
3. Anxiolytic effects of nicotine in a rodent test of approach-avoidance conflict – Cohen A, Young RW, Velazquez MA, Groysman M, Noorbehesht K, 2009
4. Nicotine as a cognitive enhancer – Warburton DM, 1992
5. Effects of Smoking Cessation on Changes in Blood Pressure and Incidence of Hypertension – Duk-Hee Lee, Myung-Hwa Ha, Jang-Rak Kim, 2001
6. Long-term effects of nicotine gum on weight gain after smoking cessation – Nordstrom BL, Kinnunen T, Utman CH, Garvey AJ, 1999
7. Multiple roles for nicotine in Parkinson’s disease – Quik M, Huang LZ, Parameswaran N, Bordia T, Campos C, Perez XA, 2009
8. Profiles in discouragement: Two studies of variability in the time course of smoking withdrawal symptoms – Piasecki, Thomas M.; Fiore, Michael C., 1998
9. Waist circumference and weight following smoking cessation in a general population: the Inter99 study – Pisinger C, Jorgensen T, 2007