Nicotine abuse occurs when someone begins using tobacco or other products that contain the drug nicotine and finds that he or she cannot stop using the products. A number of consequences of nicotine abuse, including increased risk for a number of cancers and withdrawal symptoms, come from the toxins and chemicals found in tobacco products, such as tar and carbon monoxide. The drug itself also raises a person's blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Those who abuse nicotine may have a number of other health problems and may find themselves socially alienated.
When a person smokes a cigarette or cigar or chews tobacco, he gets a hit of nicotine with every inhalation. The drug gets absorbed into the bloodstream, where it quickly travels to the brain and glands. Nicotine abuse results in an increase in levels of epinephrine, or adrenaline, in a person's body, which makes the heart beat faster and raises blood pressure. The drug also disturbs the level of insulin the pancreas produces, causing a person who smokes or uses tobacco to have elevated glucose levels.
Other consequences of nicotine abuse come from other chemicals in tobacco products, not simply the nicotine itself. Those who smoke are at an increased risk for a number of cancers, particularly lung cancer. People who use smokeless tobacco are at an increased risk for mouth and throat cancers. The high level of carcinogens found in tobacco products, including carbon monoxide, cyanide, and tar, increase a person's risk for cancer.
An addiction to nicotine can also limit a person's social interactions. A number of people disapprove of smoking or tobacco use and do not want to be around those who use tobacco. Anyone who hangs around a smoker is also at risk for secondhand smoke inhalation, which increases the risk for heart disease and cancer. People who abuse nicotine and feel the need to smoke or chew tobacco may avoid locations where they are not allowed to smoke, such as restaurants or a family member's house.
Withdrawal symptoms are another consequence of nicotine abuse. Symptoms can appear when a person either tries to quit or is unable to smoke for a certain length of time. Signs of nicotine withdrawal include agitation and irritability as well as sleeplessness and an increase in appetite. Someone who wishes to cut down on nicotine use or completely quit using tobacco may find that using a nicotine patch or gum helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and helps him to quit.