Utilizing nicotine as a cognitive enhancer


For the previous few months, I’ve been experimenting with nicotine as a nootropic. A nootropic substance is one which improves cognitive operate with none dangerous results, and ideally is non-addictive and non-behaviour forming. Loads of nootropics would not have hard science backing them up. Nicotine is among the only a few that has scientific literature displaying essential cognitive advantages.

Is it addictive?

Cigarette smoke incorporates over 5,000 compounds; however in public discourse, nicotine will get all the eye because the ‘factor that makes cigarettes addictive’. The general perception that nicotine alone causes cigarettes to be addictive is because of an influential 640 web page report entitled “The Wellbeing Penalties of Smoking: Nicotine Dependency” that was launched in 1988 by the U.S. Surgeon Normal. The story leads with the abstract assertion that “Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes habit”, and goes on to recommend that nicotine is analogous in its degree of addictiveness to heroin. Right this moment, this report is seen as flawed, as a result of it drew on the research of tobacco use to determine the addictiveness of nicotine, moderately than research on nicotine in isolation. Within the intervening years, advertising and marketing hype around alternative nicotine merchandise for smoking cessation has saved the concentrate on nicotine as ‘the answer’ to getting cigarette customers to quit smoking. Extra just lately, folks have promoted E-cigs as a path to smoking secession, a concept which stays very controversial, [ref, ref] however is promising from a hurt discount perspective.[ref, ref] As a result of they ship nicotine shortly to the mind, e-cigs are one of the addictive strategies of nicotine supply.

A significant meta-analysis discovered that nicotine alternative merchandise (NRP) elevated the probability of quitting smoking by 50-70%[ref]. Nonetheless, the bottom price for with the ability to stop cigarettes throughout any multi-month program stays low (~5 %??), and the variety of people who find themselves capable of stopping after NRP program is likewise small (~10-20%)[ref]. These stubbornly low charges of success have led some researchers to marvel if one thing else is making cigarettes addictive. Current analysis means that the addictiveness of cigarettes could also be as a result of an interplay between MAOIs (that are present in tobacco smoke) and nicotine. Gwern’s writeup incorporates far more dialogue and in depth references on this level.

In response to the concentrate on nicotine as the reason for smoking’s addictiveness, Frenk and Dar wrote a 241 web page monograph, “A Critique of Nicotine Dependancy” (2002). As Gwern notes, the authors usually overstate their case by attempting to argue that nicotine shouldn’t be addictive in any respect. The overall consensus is that nicotine is addictive.

Animals, together with rats and squirrel monkeys, will self administer nicotine. Nicotine habit seems to happen using the dopamine system – killing the dopaminergic neurons in animal fashions results in a cessation of self-administration. Curiously, the dose-response curve of nicotine shortly flattens out in rats — i.e. they may quickly self restrict how a lot they’re taking. That is in distinction to medicine equivalent to cocaine or amphetamines. Nicotine consumption in people lies typically in a slim vary, between 2-30 mg per day.

The addictiveness of nicotine is modulated by the depth and length of nicotine publicity. Basically with addictive substances, the extra shortly it’s delivered, the extra dopamine and reward substances are produced. The mind incorporates mechanisms for tolerance/habituation, to stop too many reward compounds from being built; however, when nicotine is delivered shortly, the brain doesn’t have the time to develop tolerance. One more reason that quick supply (i.e. using vaping / smoking) is extra addictive than different strategies of consumption is that it was more straightforward for your mind to affiliate the reward to the act of smoking/inhaling. Nicotine enters the mind solely 10-20 seconds after an individual takes a draw from a cigarette. Lastly, nicotine receptors sensitise and desensitise pretty shortly.

Optimum dosing and supply technique for nootropic profit

A cigarette administers about 2 mg of absorbed nicotine. As a nootropic, limiting to 1-2mg a day is beneficial.

Supply strategies: danger for addictiveness from highest to lowest:

  1. Vaping
  2. Nasal nasal spray
  3. Nicotine inhaler
  4. Nicotine mouth spray
  5. Chewing gum (when correctly taken)
  6. Lozenges (when successfully taken, don’t eat)
  7. Nicotine patches [these administer nicotine over hours, resulting in a significantly lower chance of addiction than all the above, but on the flip side some users report not seeing as many cognitive benefits]

One examines of nicotine gum customers concluded “Amongst long-term customers (>/=90 days), 20% attributed their use to habit… Combining the outcomes of Research 1 and a couple of with different knowledge suggests only a few gum customers develop a dependence on the gum.” [ref] Nicotine gum/lozenges shouldn’t be consumed shortly, the packaging recommends ‘parking’ the gum/lozenge underneath your lip and letting it sit there for some time.

My private observations

I obtained the concept to take nicotine as a nootropic after studying an interview with Oxford transhumanist thinker Nick Bostrom. When requested if he has ever made any cognitive enhancers, he stated he experimented with nicotine gum. In his guide Superintelligence, he additionally mentions that nicotine gum helped him write the guide.

I’ve developed a considerably new nuanced view on habit. Firstly, if one goes to the extent of biochemistry and neurotransmitters, one can draw essential distinctions between ‘habit’, ‘behaviour’, and ‘dependence’. As an example, SSRIs carry a significant dependence; however, are technically not addictive in the identical means that onerous medicine is. Technically, the habit will be distinguished from poor behaviour by the activation of explicit reward circuitry within the mind that entails a compound known as ‘delta FOS-b’, amongst different issues. However, for the aim of this dialogue, we’ll contemplate ‘habit’ to imply behaviour and dependence that’s to interrupt. An essential level when considering nootropics is to know that habit, construed within the primary sense, shouldn’t be necessarily a nasty factor. As an example, many people discover that the advantages of caffeine outweigh the dependence it entails. The identical could maintain for other excessive nootropics which can be identified to be addictive, equivalent to modafinil. As one other instance, many individuals discover SSRIs and different psychiatric medicines helpful regardless that they have a giant dependence. Transferring exterior the realm of belongings you ingest, somebody is likely to be ‘addicted’ to video video games, however video games can present a superb cognitive exercise and even facilitate social interplay in some people. There are could examples of addictive issues that may be web useful on one’s well being and wellbeing – intercourse, train endorphins, maintaining a healthy diet, and many others. Stability is essential, and one should be aware of the drawback – withdrawal signs when one doesn’t get their ‘repair’.

I took nicotine gum on the degree of two mg/day from January – April, and 1 mg/day from Could – June (a single cigarette incorporates about 2 mg of nicotine). I began noticing dependency after just a few weeks of use. I didn’t take the full dose without delay, and I chewed nicotine gum strategically using the day 3-Four instances a day, typically taking the glue out of my mouth and placing it again within the wrapper. The consequences of nicotine are instantly visible. The withdrawal signs are very refined – there have been days the place I forgot to take nicotine the place I didn’t discover any detrimental results. The withdrawal turned evident once I tried to do one thing that requires focus or consideration earlier than taking my dose for the day. It was if I had run right into a ‘block’ that prevented my thoughts from functioning on the degree I needed. For my part, the extent of dependence appears like a caffeine dependence on the degree of 200 mg/day, however extra refined. Moreover, from what I’ve learned, with regards to quitting, the withdrawal from nicotine will be protracted (i.e. every week or longer), whereas removal results from caffeine usually solely final just a few days.

The principle drawback I’ve had with nicotine is forgetting to convey it with me someplace, having anxiousness about not having it available after which having hassle specialising in some cognitively demanding process. It’s unclear to me how a lot of my issue got here from psychosomatic results vs precise withdrawal signs, nonetheless.

Whereas total taking nicotine regularly has been useful for me, one ought to concentrate on the dependency downsides and the fact it’s tougher to ween off than caffeine. Nonetheless, on condition that one is devoted sufficient, it’s doable to ‘taper off’ by merely chewing barely much less every day and for much less time.

Some notes on nicotine’s pharmacological results

  • Nicotine will increase neurotransmitter ranges throughout the board, together with catecholamines (dopamine, adrenaline, and nonepinephrine), beta enorphines, seratonin, and even cortisol, the stress hormone, which is probably not so good a factor. [ref] See Wikipedia article for detailed refs.
  • It additionally will increase acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, [ref]
  • It has a half-life of 1-2 hours.
  • The binding cite with the very best affinity to nicotine is the alpha-4-beta-2-nicotinic receptor. Curiously, stimulation of this mandatory website ends in will increase in human progress hormone secretion.

Nootropic Advantages

  • “In 2008, Paul Newhouse, director of the Heart for Cognitive Drugs at Vanderbilt College Faculty of Drugs in Nashville, in contrast, efficiency on a collection of cognitive duties in 15 people living with nonsmoking ADHD whereas sporting both a 7-mg nicotine patch or a placebo patch. After simply 45 minutes with the nicotine patch, the younger adults had been considerably higher at inhibiting an impulse, delaying a reward and remembering a picture they’d seen. Psychologist Jennifer Rusted of the College of Sussex in Britain calls the drug “probably the most dependable cognitive enhancer that we presently have”. From Uncover Journal, “Nicotine, the marvel drug?”, 2014
  • Decrease the incidence of inflammatory and neurodegenerative illnesses.[ref]
  • Folks present extra managed and fluent handwriting after taking nicotine.
    Results of nicotine chewing gum on a real-life motor process: a kinematic evaluation of handwriting actions in people who smoke and non-smokers.
  • Folks can faucet their fingers quicker with out sacrificing accuracy
    Results of nicotine on finger tapping price in non-smokers, 1986
  • Contributors with a 7mg nicotine patch had been in a position to concentrate on a mentally tiring process longer than controls may.
    Nicotine results on alertness and spatial consideration in non-smokers ,2001
  • Nicotine gum (2mg-4mg) elevated vigilance in a visible detection process.
    Nicotine chewing gum (2 mg, Four mg) and cigarette smoking: comparative results upon vigilance and coronary heart price., 1989
  • Each people who smoke and nonsmokers reacted extra shortly to visible cues and did higher with phrase recognition after an injection of 0.3mg – 0.6mg of nicotine.
    Cognitive efficiency results of subcutaneous nicotine in people who smoke and never-smokers, 1996.
  • “Individuals who took nicotine higher recalled a listing of phrases they’d simply learn, and also repeated a narrative word-for-word, making fewer errors than folks given placebo made” [ref, ref]

Different misc advantages

  • Decrease danger for Parkinson’s illness. Many years in the past researchers seen a robust correlation between smoking and a decrease danger for Parkinson’s disease. Since then, a big physique of analysis has demonstrated nicotine is accountable for this. Some study suggests it might help treat Parkinson’s as effectively.
    Barreto, GE; Iarkov, A; Moran, VE (Jan 2015). “Useful results of nicotine, cotinine and its metabolites as potential brokers for Parkinson’s illness”. Entrance Ageing Neuroscience. 9 (6): 340.
  • For Alzheimer’s therapy, Alzheimer’s ends in a lack of nicotinic cholinergic receptors (which nicotine binds to a prompt) and impairs cognitive operate; thus nicotine can assist counteract a few of the signs of Alzheimer’s. This turns into much less true in sufferers with later-stage Alzheimers, as there are then only a few nicotinic receptors left for nicotine to work on.
  • For therapy of melancholy, There is not less than two preliminary analysis research [N=11 and N=12] suggesting that nicotine administration, using a nicotine patch, could also help treat melancholy. [Science Daily, 2006] [ref]
    Folks with depression are more likely to smoke than those without, and it’s broadly believed that they’re self-medicating with nicotine. As an aspect observe, one of many essential metabolites of nicotine, cotinine, was developed as an antidepressant however by no means marketed.
  • For therapy of ADD/ ADHD [ref]

Dangers/issues to concentrate on

  • A 2016 Royal Faculty of Physicians report discovered “nicotine alone within the doses utilised by people who smoke represents little if any hazard to the consumer.”
    Wilder, Natalie; Daley, Claire; Sugarman, Jane; Partridge, James (April 2016). “Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco hurt discount”. UK: Royal Faculty of Physicians. p. 125.
  • Nicotine suppresses urge for food.[ref]
  • Decreased bone mass – has been shown rat fashions. The mechanism is unknown.
    Broulik et al. The impact of persistent nicotine administration on bone mineral content material in mice., Horm. Metab. Res. 25(4) 1993
    Broulik, et al. The Impact of Continual Nicotine Administration on Bone Mineral Content material and Bone Energy in Regular and Castrated Male Rats, Horm. Metab. Res., 2007
  • Significant anxiousness throughout withdrawal interval.[ref]
  • Pregnant girls ought to positively not take nicotine!
    Holbrook, Bradley D. (2016). “The consequences of nicotine on human fetal improvement”. Start Defects Analysis Half C: Embryo Right this moment: Critiques. 108 (2): 181–92. DOI:10.1002/bdrc.21128.
  • Cardiovascular danger – at one level, it was assumed that nicotine in all probability conveyed a more significant threat for heart problems. However, based mostly on research on tobacco consumption. Research on nicotine itself doesn’t present a significant impact on heart problems though there could also be some low dangers.
    Benowitz, Neal L.; Burbank, Andrea D. (2016). “Cardiovascular toxicity of nicotine: Implications for digital cigarette use”. Developments in Cardiovascular Drugs. 26 (6): 515–523.
  • One examine suggests nicotine reduces HDL-C, a sort of excellent LDL cholesterol [ref]. [ref]
  • Most cancers danger Some in-vitro experiments recommend nicotine improve carcinogenesis. No strong in-vivo correlation between nicotine and most cancers has been reported to this point, although. 2013 examine, which obtained a whole lot of press consideration, discovered that nicotine upregulated two specific genes in endothelial cells that are linked to most cancers. The principle caveat to this examine is that they used the LD50 (deadly) focus of nicotine, which is orders of magnitude greater than the focus obtained from nootropic use of nicotine. [ref][for more refs see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine#Cancer]
  • Lowered sexual arousal A 2007 N=28 examine confirmed that nicotine use in non-smoking males results in 23% decrease sexual arousal, as measured by the circumference of erection whereas viewing erotic materials. This examines confirmed that nicotine results in an acute discount in libido, which isn’t obligatory a nasty factor for these taking nicotine for nootropic causes. The long-run results of nicotine on sexual efficiency are unknown. However, there’s a correlation between smoking impotence.
  • Toxicity – nicotine is poisonous at excessive ranges. This can be very poisonous to bugs, which is why many vegetation produce it. The precise LD50 focus of nicotine in people is controversial; however, lies someplace between .5-10 mg/kg. Extra essential to keep in mind is the vary for a deadly single dose, which is 30-60 mg in adults and 10 mg in kids. That is important to keep in mind with e-cigarettes, as a single vial of e-liquid can comprise 20 mg of nicotine – so they need to be avoided, kids! Dying from nicotine overdose is extraordinarily uncommon although, Between 2010-2012 just one demise from e-liquids was reported, which was a suicide.[wikipedia]

Replace (12/17): preliminary analysis (Science Each day, journal article) has found a mechanism whereby nicotine can improve irritation using the manufacturing of extra neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). In small portions, NETs can assist shield the physique from invaders like viruses; however, is more significant pieces they find yourself harming the frame and improve irritation. This work is a cause to maintain nicotine consumption low (use a minimal viable dose and maybe even keep away from extended run use)

Replace (9/18): there’s additionally analysis Abrous, et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2002) displaying that nicotine administration in rats can decrease the manufacturing of latest neurons within the hippocampus. One caveat to this work is that the quantities of nicotine within the rats (in micrograms/kg) are very excessive (10x the degrees from 2mg/day of nicotine gum).


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