Cancer has become one of the prevalent and most terrifying diseases of this century. With patients coming from all strata of life, and a plethora of causative agents, it has been a challenge to curb the disease. In developing countries like India, mouth cancer has emerged as one of the topmost forms of cancer that are widespread.
Tobacco has been listed as the major reason for preventable cancers by WHO. It contains nicotine which acts as a potent mutagen. The compound is exceedingly addictive and has a detrimental effect on major body systems such as heart, lung, kidneys, etc. Nicotine is a strong alkaloid that is present in tobacco leaves. The human body absorbs it with a minimal exposure to skin, gut, lungs and oral mucosa. When this compound is present at a higher pH, then it attains the property of permeability. As a result, each and every biological membrane lets nicotine to pass through.
Upon ingestion, like every alkaloid, nicotine is metabolized by the liver. This breaks down it into several by-products and is send for excretion. But at a high urinary pH, it is again reabsorbed. Therefore, the presence of nicotine in the body may lead to high blood sugar levels and increased level of plasma fatty acids.
Once absorbed it is difficult to metabolize and get rid of all the nicotine. As mentioned, some of it gets reabsorbed. In general terms, this alkaloid compound has a half-life of about 2 hours and ideally, the body should take 24-48 hours to clear the whole of nicotine present. But other factors also play a role in the dissemination of the addictive alkaloid from the body. These parameters are the time for which the body has been exposed and the amount that has been absorbed by the body.
Along with the factors mentioned above the body constituency also plays a major role in its decimation time. As the proportion of body elements change with time and hormonal levels, therefore how long does nicotine stay in your body changes with that. So, can be concluded that elimination time depends upon the following factors –
➔ The time of exposure
➔ The amount of nicotine intake
➔ The age and sex of the person exposed with reference to their hormonal effects.
As a result, the decimation time varies from individual to individual. Moreover, young people are more efficient in metabolizing the alkaloid than older people or newborns. This is due to the reduced metabolic rate in old and inability to process complex compound in underdeveloped organs of newborns.
On an average, the nicotine levels are considerably high in the body after 1-3 days of exposure. However, some body parts metabolize it at a different rate than the other parts. For example, thebody fluids, blood, and urine. When taken into consideration, nicotine levels in the blood fall rapidly when compared to nicotine levels in the urine. Blood takes around 1-2 days to eliminate it, whereas urine shows the presence of nicotine even after 3-4 days of exposure.
This is due to the fact that absorption of nicotine depends upon the pH surrounding. Hence, due to high pH of
the kidney tubules, the chemical gets reabsorbed. When other tissues and body fluids are considered, like saliva and hair follicle, then there also one can see a vast contrast in the data present. Nicotine is annihilated from saliva within four days of consumption. But hair follicles show traces of nicotine even after months of intake.
If one uses very accurate and specific tests then one can detect the chemical with the help of a hair
follicle even after a year of ingestion. Along with the age and sex of an individual, the person’s genetic composition and the level of hormones also play a vital role in the absorption of nicotine. For example, certain studies show the people of Asian – American origin and African – American origin have difficulty in processing nicotine or one can say that their system metabolizes nicotine at a slower rate than the metabolism rate in people of Caucasian and Hispanic origin. Studies have also revealed that females with a high level of estrogen eliminate nicotine at a faster rate than others.
Intake of drugs, like antibiotics and antifungals, may also lead to a decreased rate of elimination of nicotine. This is due to the fact that drugs like rifampicin and ketoconazole reduce the rate of metabolism of the body which in turn affects the eradication rate of nicotine. In order to eliminate the chemical at a faster rate, the individual should abstain from all tobacco products. This will reduce the exposure and will help in metabolizing nicotine. Apart from this, one can always eat the right amount of food that is rich in antioxidants in combination with exercise as the best way to release nicotine and its metabolized products is through sweat.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive chemicals in the body, it causes many temporary and permanent side effects, such as fatigue, weight gain, and headache. Prolonged exposure to nicotine results in dysfunctioning of the peripheral and central nervous system. Damage to the CNS causes tremors, prostration, cyanosis, dyspnoea, convulsion, which finally leads to coma.
There have been cases where the compound has caused the failure of one of the major organ systems of the body, such as paralysis of the respiratory muscles which ultimately leads to death. It has also been known to act as a mutagen (cancer-causing agents) in various types of cancer, such as lung carcinogenesis, gastrointestinal carcinogenesis, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer.
It has also been known to cause distress in systems like cardiovascular, respiratory, ocular, immunological and reproductive. To conclude, nicotine has posed itself as one the most harmful poisons which is highly addictive.
It causes major discomfort to almost all the systems of the body. It has been regarded as a potent carcinogenic agent which enhances tumorigenesis and hinders the functioning of chemotherapeutic agents. However, it can be controlled with the help of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which has shown effective results in managing the symptoms due to long exposure followed by abrupt withdrawal of the chemical.