With all of the negative associations that have been made with nicotine, it is no wonder that it is hard for many to stomach the idea that it could indeed actually be a healthful substance. However, recent research has proven that nicotine isn’t quite the villain we once thought.
With a wide variety of health benefits, as well as potential for cognitive enhancement, memory and attention boosting, and even curing and preventing various diseases; nicotine could even be considered somewhat of a wonder-drug.
Unfortunately, one of the negative associations made with nicotine is smoking; it isn’t suggested to begin smoking to obtain the health benefits that provided by nicotine. That would be the equivalent of snorting a pile of cocaine for a quick energy boost….while it would probably work, it would most definitely be a horrible idea concerning the detrimental effects it would pose to your health in the grand scheme of things.
Thankfully, vaping is turning the tables on all of that.
Nicotine is Not the Bad Guy
Many people, particularly smokers, believe that nicotine causes cancer, and that is not true at all. Since tobacco use is commonly considered to pose a significant risk for cancer, as well as impact your health in various other ways, nicotine, which is the main ingredient in tobacco, has gotten a bad rap.
Nicotine is merely one out of around 7,000 other chemicals that are included in cigarette smoke, and many of those 7,000 others are carcinogenic and toxic. When nicotine is removed from this particular product, and used in patches, gums, or other replacement products, it is actually widely used and recommended for use.
Everyone ingests a little bit of nicotine each day, due to minute quantities that are found in various forms of vegetation such as tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and cauliflower.
Yet another misconception commonly associated with nicotine is that it bears the responsibility for addiction to smoking. While it is on of the many “alkaloids” found in tobacco, adding the other alkaloids is actually what enhances the addictive properties found in nicotine. Without these additives, nicotine loses much of its addictive features. What this all translates to is that while nicotine is addictive, it is far less addictive that smoking cigarettes.
The FDA has even recently come out in agreement, and could possibly be changing the labels found on nicotine patches and gum based on this. In their own words:
“Although any nicotine-containing product is potentially addictive, decades of research and use have shown that [nicotine replacement therapy] products sold [over the counter] do not appear to have significant potential for abuse or dependence.”
The Medicinal Uses of Nicotine
Research has found that nicotine could actually be the good guy in many cases. With many conditions that actually can be helped by nicotine, including ulcerative colitis, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, pain, mild cognitive impairment, Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
How exactly does nicotine do so much? Well, it all comes down to the way in which it works on the brain. Take Parkinson’s disease as an example. In this particular disease, the neurons which are responsible for releasing dopamine (or the happy chemical in your brain) begin to deteriorate. Drugs like levodopa are used because it’s a precursor to dopamine. Nicotine also increases dopamine, and can also decrease the progression of the disease, and aid in relief from one of the more serious side effects posed by levodopa.
Can Nicotine Improve Cognition?
The improved mental function is actually the most promising result from the use of nicotine. Similar to the way that nicotine can help a patient with Alzheimer’s, the nicotinic system, specifically the acetylcholine receptors that nicotine acts on in the brain, is actually quite crucial for maintaining high performance on many tasks. Alzheimer’s patients have less of these particular receptors, and nicotine treatment helps to minimize the effect of this deficit.
Even healthy adults can benefit from this effect. British psychologist David M. Warburton wrote a paper called “Nicotine as a Cognitive Enhancer”, which looks at the evidence associated with nicotine on the attention span and memory functions. Benefits provided to memory are often linked to any improvements seen in attention, due to the fact that when you pay attention to something you are more likely to remember it.
One study looked at the improvements on attention span by showing participants the names of colors, with the text being shown in a different color. The word yellow would be shown in red, and the word green in the color blue. The task was to name the color of the text rather than the actual word.
The difference in competition times when color words are used to the completion times when non-color terms are used is called the “Stroop effect” (getting its name from the tasks creator) and manages one’s ability to pay selective attention to the important information and ignore useless information. When 1 or 2 mg of nicotine was provided to participants, the size of the Stroop effect reduced in both deprived smokers and non-smokers, suggesting that improvements had been made in selective attention.
Are Smokers the Only One’s Who Benefit?
Studies have shown that while nicotine provides many benefits to non-smokers, smokers along with other groups with known cognitive deficits do benefit more from it.
How Vaping Could Unlock the Benefits of Nicotine
A recent report from the Public Health England suggested that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. Although there is still some risk associated, the risks are quite a bit lower than those involved with cigarette smoking. Basically, if you are a smoker, switching to the vape method could be exponentially better for your health and well-being. If you are not a smoker, it isn’t the best of ideas to pick up vaping just to obtain the benefits of nicotine.
What all of this means is that if you are a smoker and you enjoy the benefits that you currently obtain from smoking, you can still reap the benefits of the nicotine with substantially fewer health risks, by vaping.
Although the benefits have been available without cigarettes for ages via nicotine patches and gum, leading nicotine expert Jacques le Houezec points out:
“The most effective way of delivering nicotine to the brain (where most effects occur) is by smoking tobacco, particularly because smokers can modify their nicotine intake on a puff-by-puff basis (called self-titration of nicotine) […] Nicotine is then a very suitable drug by which you can get the effect you need at the time you need it, because inhalation of tobacco smoke (or now with e-cigarette vapor) brings nicotine to the brain very quickly (actually faster than an intravenous injection).”
Vaping is Nicotine’s Second Chance
Vaping could provide nicotine with a chance to shake off its negative connections with various cancers and health risks. While non-smokers shouldn’t be advised to pick up vaping, smokers, especially those with cognitive impairments could be offered with a plethora of surprising benefits that can only be unlocked with the use of vaping. Vaping could offer them with not only the cognitive function increase but also with the same sensation and satisfaction as they would achieve if they had continued puffing on their cigarettes. However, they would lose almost all of the health risks associated with their choice of relief.