Nicotine is a toxic yellowish liquid that is the active ingredient in tobacco. It acts as a receptor agonist at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. In small doses it acts as a stimulant, but in larger doses it blocks the action of autonomic nerve and skeletal muscle cells.
Nicotine is highly addictive based on drug-reinforced behavior; the process of associating a drug with a certain behavior. For instance, you may start off smoking one cigarette at a party. The next time you attend a party, you may smoke a couple of more cigarettes. The next time you have a beer at your friend’s house, you may smoke a cigarette for the first time away from a party setting. Afterwards, you make smoke a cigarette every time you drive to your friend’s house! Your brain attempts to enhance every behavior that is related to previous nicotinic behaviors; this is the addiction!
Nicotine creates a psychological dependence in the user; every previous activity under the influence of nicotine will make the user want to repeat that activity with nicotine again. Nicotine has a way of making behaviors more enjoyable; the second that you inhale the first puff, you feel an immediate sense of relaxation as if your stress is being sucked out of you.
Take a look at Mayo Clinic to understand nicotine dependence. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths per year in the United States and more than 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. That is 10 years stolen by nicotine!
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