Nicotine is the substance in tobacco that causes dependence. Nicotine first stimulates and then depresses the central nervous system. Stimulation occurs due to the release of norepinephrine and because it mimics the action of acetylcholine. It stimulates nerve endings rapidly, but is not removed from the receptors very quickly. As a result, it then creates depression of the CNS, caused by blocked nerve activity Once tobacco is inhaled it only takes seven seconds to reach the brain.
Nicotine is the main psychoactive compound in tobacco. It is the second most used stimulant behind caffeine. The nicotine content ranges from 0.3% to 7% depending on the variety of tobacco, as well as the leaf position on the stalk (the higher the leaf position, the higher the concentration). The average cigarette contains between 0.05 to 2.5 mg of nicotine. The smoker who inhales the smoke gets about 90% of the nicotine in the bloodstream, 60 milligrams of nicotine can be fatal.
Tobacco leaves have been smoked, chewed and sniffed in the Western world for only 400 year, though Native American Indians have used it for centuries. Tobacco reached Europe after the return of Columbus from the New World. Tobacco was descriped as a holy, healing herb, a remedy sent by God to man. It was also descriped as a evil plant, an invention of the devil.
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