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Nicotine

INFORMATION

Uses

Nicotine is used in smoking addiction.

How it works

Nicotine is a stimulant drug that acts as an agonist at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. These are ionotropic receptors composed up of five homomeric or heteromeric subunits. In the brain, nicotine binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on dopaminergic neurons in the cortico-limbic pathways. This causes the channel to open and allow conductance of multiple cations including sodium, calcium, and potassium. This leads to depolarization, which activates voltage-gated calcium channels and allows more calcium to enter the axon terminal. Calcium stimulates vesicle trafficking towards the plasma membrane and the release of dopamine into the synapse. Dopamine binding to its receptors is responsible the euphoric and addictive properties of nicotine. Nicotine also binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on the chromaffin cells in the adrenal medulla. Binding opens the ion channel allowing influx of sodium, causing depolarization of the cell, which activates voltage-gated calcium channels. Calcium triggers the release of epinephrine from intracellular vesicles into the bloodstream, which causes vasoconstriction, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and increased blood sugar.

Common side effects

Pale colored skin, Palpitations, Paresthesia (tingling or pricking sensation), Epileptic convulsion, Fainting, Increased glucose level in blood, Increased lactate level in blood, Increased depth of breathing, Decreased insulin level in blood, Increased sweating, Respiratory arrest, Tremor

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Content on this page was last updated on 28 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)