Nicotine is a drug found in cigarettes. When smoke is inhaled, nicotine is transferred into the blood stream and is transported to the brain where it has its effect. The problem with nicotine is that it is addictive and it is the chemical that makes it difficult to give up the ‘cancer sticks’. So how can sticking a nicotine patch on your arm help give up smoking?
Well, the patch has a reservoir of nicotine placed between a impermeable backing layer and a permeable membrane on the skin side that will let the nicotine through. Your skin is normally a protective layer that does not let much through, except lipid soluble (fat loving) molecules just like nicotine. As they penetrate the skin they can be taken up by the small blood vessels under the skin called capillaries. Over 16-24 hours nicotine is drip fed into the blood, all be it at a much lower dose than the short sharp hit from a cigarette.
BENEFITS OF USING A NICOTINE PATCH
- No carbon monoxide poisoning
- No Tar build up in the lungs
- Less exposure to carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals)
After a cigarette, nicotine levels peak and die off over 20-30 minutes, so at night time, nicotine levels drop to virtually nothing. With patches some users experience nightmares as there is a constant low level of nicotine in the blood for longer, which has an adverse effect on the brain during sleep.
It is really important that if you are using the nicotine patches that you do not smoke at the same time as there is a risk of a nicotine overdose!!! The effects of an overdose include nausea, cold sweats, headaches, dizziness, confusion, racing heart beat, seizures and even death! We will go into this in more detail in the next blog, which is all about how nicotine works on the brain to have its effects and why it is so addictive!
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