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Effects of Nicotine 

The spread and popularity of tobacco throughout the world represents nothing less than a seduction of whole civilizations, one by one, over the course of history.  We know today, that the seductive power of tobacco owes much to the effects of nicotine on those that use tobacco.

Anti-smoking movements cast this effect in the most negative terms possible.  They invoke the words "addiction," "addictive substance," "addictive drug," "victims," and other terms that cast tobacco and nicotine as villians on the world-stage.  The language is meant to bring to mind the war against drugs, and to categorize those that use any form of tobacco as helpless, hapless victims of some evil overwhelming outside force.

Ultimately, this avoids a fairly important philosophical question.  Should we live our lives in every way in order to live as long as humanly possible, not matter how many enjoyable experiences we must avoid?  Or should we live our lives for the enjoyment the world offers us, despite a chance that this might result in us living a shorter period of time?  I believe the answer lies in a balance between the two extremes.

The problem is that anti-smoking movements are mostly made up of zealots, seemingly willing to twist facts or even lie in order to make progress in their political aims.  The aims of zealots never lead to balance.  Zealots seek to control others, in order to supposedly help them.  Put in context, if the zealots have their way, their fellow humans must be protected from everything enjoyable that has the chance of causing health problems.  Beer, whiskey, soda pop, candy bars, bacon, fatty foods, carbs, and even sex are all enjoyable activties that come with some level of risk.  Some of these joys of life have also been shown to have addictive qualities. 

I like nicotine.  I very purposely use nicotine.  I've quit using it before.  And I've chosen to take up its use again.  The common thought would be that I am a helpless addict, unable to shake a dangerous addictive substance.  But, I am here to tell you that I have quit using nicotine in times of peace and rest in my life, and I've returned to nicotine in times of stress and hardship.  I've come to enjoy the effect it has on me, and I believe I will continue using it moving forward.  I enjoy it.  I enjoy who I am when I use it.

Nicotine is unique.  At least in my experience.  There are times it acts as a stimulant and times it acts to relax me.  It brings me a feeling of peace.  Things can be going wrong, but then I enjoy a little tobacco, and things feel better.  The problem is still there, and I still need to deal with it, but I'm calm and focused.  Big problems seem smaller.  Anger turns to mild irritation.  Massive disappointment turns to more circumspect attitude about the nature of life.

Nicotine increases one's concentration and focus.  It makes you alert when you need a little pick-me-up, and it calms you when you need something to even out a little anxiety.  Nicotine reduces the appetite and increases metabolism, causing many that enjoy tobacco to lose weight as a consequence.  Nicotine seems to give you exactly what you need, at the time you need it.

Let's look at how nicotine can have such contradictory effects on its user. At low doses, nicotine potently enhances the actions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, causing a drug effect typical of those of psychostimulants. At higher doses, nicotine enhances the effect of serotonin and opioid activity, producing a calming, pain-killing effect. Nicotine is unique in comparison to most drugs, as its profile changes from stimulant to sedative/pain killer with increasing dosages and use, a phenomenon described by Paul Nesbitt in his doctoral dissertation and subsequently referred to as "Nesbitt's paradox."

When tobacco is used, nicotine-rich blood travels to the brain and immediately stimulates the release of many chemical messengers such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, arginine vasopressin, serotonin, dopamine, and beta-endorphin.  This release of neurotransmitters and hormones is responsible for most of nicotine's psychoactive effects. Nicotine appears to enhance concentration and memory due to the increase of acetylcholine. It also appears to enhance alertness due to the increases of acetylcholine and norepinephrine. Arousal is raised by the increase of norepinephrine. Pain is reduced by the increases of acetylcholine and beta-endorphin. Anxiety is reduced by the increase of beta-endorphin. Nicotine also extends the duration of positive effects of dopamine and increases sensitivity in brain reward systems.

There is some research suggesting that nicotine could be used as a treatment for depression, Alzheimer's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease.

I'm not suggesting that Tobacco and Nicotine are safe.  Just as I would not suggest that beer, whiskey, soda pop, candy bars, bacon, fatty foods, carbs, and even sex are safe.  Just as with these non-tobacco related activities, there are ways to use tobacco that are clearly more dangerous and ways to use tobacco that are less dangerous.  Smoking cigarettes, especially in large quantities over a period of time is the most dangerous way to use tobacco.  Smoking cigarettes involves the lungs, and the burning of tobacco creates chemicals in the tobacco smoke that have been shown to dramatically increase the chance of developing serious health problems.  At the other end of the spectrum, snuff-taking is one of the safest ways to enjoy tobacco.

Snuff-taking involves only the nose, and leaves the lungs and throat out of the loop.  Snuff-taking does not burn tobacco, eliminating the threat of tar and other dangerous chemicals found in cigarette smoke.  Scientific studies about the health risks of snuff at worst show a slight increase in the chance of developing serious health problems.  Other studies have been unable to find any health risk of using snuff.  Other studies show a hypothetical threat, but have been unable to statistically show a threat in real world application.  I'm not a doctor or scientist, so I won't try to tell you that snuff is safe.  But, I feel comfortable asserting that snuff-use is safer than other ways that tobacco is enjoyed.

Now, if someone has never used tobacco, I would not suggest they necessarily start using it.  While it is a pleasurable hobby, it can be expensive and there could be health consequences.  But, if you already use tobacco or are dead-set on starting, I would strongly suggest nasal snuff as your tobacco of choice.

For me personally, tobacco and nicotine are one of many things in life that I enjoy.  There are times that I need its calming effect.  There are times I need the focus it gives me.  There are times I simply need a quiet moment of enjoyment.  Snuff tobacco gives me these things.

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