Is it possible that everything we think we know about nicotine is a lie? The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study of 787 smokers who had recently quit, and found that over the long-term nicotine patches and gums were no more helpful to smokers than quitting cold turkey. If nicotine is one of the most addictive chemicals on the planet, why couldn’t these people quit by simply getting their nicotine from somewhere else? Maybe, because nicotine by itself isn’t what creates the addiction.
Scientists have always looked at nicotine addiction in the context of it being in tobacco cigarettes. The latest research, however, is beginning to show that nicotine by itself may not be very addictive. Two independent studies, one at the University of California-Irvine and one in France, both discovered that getting animals addicted to nicotine alone is actually quite difficult unless the nicotine is mixed with other chemicals found in cigarettes. The combination of nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco cigarette smoke are likely to be what creates the intense addiction. Nicotine alone isn’t enough.
So if it’s not nicotine, then what is it? We know that cigarette smoke generates over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are poisonous and cause cancer. What you may not know is that some of the ingredients also contain MAOIs, chemicals used in some anti-depressants. MAOIs in cigarettes cause what is oftentimes referred to as the smoker’s high, an increase in serotonin which causes a rush of good feelings and helps stabilize your mood. Very similar to the effect many illegal and addictive drugs have on the brain.
Now, this is when the heroin comparison starts to make sense. So nicotine may not be very addictive by itself, but it can still kill you, right? Highly concentrated nicotine is toxic; however, the amount found in store bought e-liquids is extremely diluted. Most household cleaners contain ingredients that when in their pure form are toxic as well. Additionally, medications approved by the FDA which are used by millions of people are also toxic if taken higher than the prescribed dosage. E-liquid and nicotine usage follow the same standards. Anti-vaping campaigns have often suggested that calls to poison control centers have increased significantly as of late due to nicotine’s toxic nature. But they fail to tell you how incredibly small those numbers are compared to calls received about normal household items.
Currently, studies are being conducted on the therapeutic effects of nicotine on neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s, the early stages of Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and schizophrenia. And once again, flying in the face of everything we thought we knew about nicotine, these researchers have not reported signs of nicotine addiction in their patients and results appear promising in the early stages. We’ve heard evidence that nicotine itself may not be overtly addictive, and this theory is supported by the evidence that many electronic cigarette users reduce or completely eliminate their nicotine levels over time.
Without the chemicals present in tobacco cigarette smoke, the nicotine addiction created by the cocktail of ingredients in tobacco smoke, is less intense and, therefore, easier to reduce with vaping.
Many e-cig users were previously unable to quit smoking with nicotine patches or gums, but experience more success with vaping because it closely mimics the habitual and emotional sensations of smoking. And because it’s a faster method of nicotine delivery than gums or patches, a key factor in their success rate according to researchers. Nicotine is the primary ingredient of focus in electronic cigarettes by politicians and anti-vaping campaigns, and their argument is that nicotine is dangerous and therefore must be regulated as a tobacco product. However, we’ve seen evidence that nicotine alone is likely not the primary cause of tobacco addiction and may actually be able to help treat many neurological diseases.
Where then is the basis for putting it in the same category as dangerous and toxic tobacco cigarettes? That’s a question you may want to ask your legislators.