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Summary sheet: Nicotine
Chemical Nomenclature
Common names Nicotine
Systematic name (S)-3-[1-Methylpyrrolidin-2-yl]pyridine
Class Membership
Psychoactive class Stimulant
Chemical class Pyridine / Pyrrolidine
Routes of Administration

WARNING: Always start with lower doses due to differences between individual body weight, tolerance, metabolism, and personal sensitivity. See responsible use section.

Threshold 0.2 mg
Light 0.3 - 0.8 mg
Common 0.8 - 1.5 mg
Strong 1.5 - 3.5 mg
Heavy 3.5 mg +
Total 1 - 3 hours
Onset 5 - 20 seconds
Come up 5 - 10 seconds
Peak 2 - 5 minutes
Offset 1 - 2 hours
After effects 1 - 3 hours

Threshold 0.2 mg
Light 0.5 - 2 mg
Common 2 - 4 mg
Strong 4 - 6 mg
Heavy 6 mg +
Total 45 - 90 minutes
Onset 3 - 15 minutes
Come up 3 - 15 minutes
Peak 5 - 20 minutes
Offset 1 - 2 hours
After effects 2 - 6 hours

DISCLAIMER: PW's dosage information is gathered from users and resources for educational purposes only. It is not a recommendation and should be verified with other sources for accuracy.


Nicotine is a naturally-occurring stimulant substance of the pyridine and pyrrolidine classes. It is the principal alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants.[1] It produces its effects by binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs).[2]

As the chief ingredient of the tobacco used in cigarettes, cigars, and snuff, nicotine is one of the most widely used substances in the world.[3] It is also used as an antiherbivore agent to deter plant predation and has been used as an insecticide in the past. [4]

Subjective effects include stimulation, focus enhancement, motivation enhancement, anxiety suppression, and mild euphoria. The stimulating and anxiety-suppressing effects are considered mild compared to other substances, but can nevertheless promote compulsive redosing.

Unlike many other psychoactive substances, nicotine in the form of tobacco is reported to have a unique biphasic effect in which inhaling it in short puffs produces a stimulant effect, while deep drags produces a relaxing one. Nicotine overdoses, even mild ones, are reported to be highly unpleasant and result in significant nausea and light-headedness.

Nicotine is well-studied and known to be highly addictive. At sufficiently high doses, it can potentially be deadly, though serious or fatal overdoses are rare. The major harms of nicotine addiction are associated with the negative health effects of chronic tobacco smoking, which include heart disease and various forms of cancer.[citation needed] While the link between tobacco use and cancer is well-established, various roles of nicotine in cancer initiation have also been found.[5]

Nicotine patches and nicotine-containing chewing gums are being currently used in nicotine-replacement therapy to help tobacco users quit.

It is highly advised to use harm reduction practices if using this substance.

History and culture

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As a result, it may contain incomplete or wrong information. You can help by expanding it.

Crude nicotine was known by 1571, and the compound was obtained in purified form in 1828; the correct molecular formula was established in 1843, and the first laboratory synthesis was reported in 1904.

Nicotiana rustica has been used by the Mapacho (South America)[6] and the thuoc lao (thuốc lào) (Vietnam) people for spiritual purposes.


Nicotine (3-[(2S)-1-methylpyrrolidin-2-yl]pyridine) is a naturally occurring bicyclic compound comprised of a pyridine ring attached to the second carbon of a pyrrolidine ring that has a methyl substituent on the nitrogen. Pyridine is an unsaturated six-membered ring structurally related to benzene but with a nitrogen member. Nicotine additionally contains a substituted pyrrolidine ring, which is a saturated five-membered ring with one nitrogen member. These rings are bridged from the R3 position of the pyridine ring to the R2 position of the pyrrolidine ring.

Both optical enantiomers of nicotine are active, with the naturally occurring levorotatory enantiomer being more active and more toxic than the dextrorotatory. In its basic form, it is an oily liquid that is miscible with water. However, as a nitrogenous base, nicotine readily forms stable, water-soluble salts when acidified.


Nicotine produces its stimulating effects by agonizing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, causing the liver to release glucose and the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine (adrenaline).

Once it reaches the brain, nicotine stimulates the release of many neurotransmitters and hormones, including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, arginine vasopressin, serotonin, dopamine, and β-endorphin[7][8], which are responsible for the majority of its psychoactive effects.

By increasing the level of acetylcholine in the brain, nicotine enhances concentration. Norepinephrine release causes increased alertness and arousal. With low doses, nicotine enhances the action of norepinephrine and dopamine, which produces typical psychostimulation. Nicotine also has sedative effects as produced by the release of β-endorphin (which reduces anxiety) and enhances the action of serotonin and opioids (which causes sedation).[citation needed]



Nicotine has a half-life of 1 - 2 hours when administered in a single dose and an active metabolite (cotinine) with a half-life of 20 hours. Nicotine and cotinine are further glucuronidated by UGT2B10.[9]

Subjective effects

Disclaimer: The effects listed below cite the Subjective Effect Index (SEI), an open research literature based on anecdotal user reports and the personal analyses of PsychonautWiki contributors. As a result, they should be viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism.

It is also worth noting that these effects will not necessarily occur in a predictable or reliable manner, although higher doses are more liable to induce the full spectrum of effects. Likewise, adverse effects become increasingly likely with higher doses and may include addiction, severe injury, or death ☠.

Physical effects

Cognitive effects

Experience reports

Anecdotal reports which describe the effects of this compound within our experience index include:

Additional experience reports can be found here:


Generic smoking tobacco next to branded and pre-packaged Newport Menthol cigarettes, King size.
Smokeless swedish snus


The most common source of nicotine is Nicotiana tabacum, constituting 0.6% - 3.0% of its dry weight.[11] It is also present in other species of Nightshade (Solanaceae), such as Aztec tobacco (Nicotiana rustica). Tobacco for smoking is most commonly sold as cigarettes but may also be sold as cigars, which differ from cigarettes by having a tobacco leaf wrapper instead of the paper wrapper used in cigarettes. Loose tobacco for hand-rolling cigarettes and cigars, or for smoking in pipes/hookahs is also commonly available. Tobacco products not intended for smoking are also marketed. These include snuffs which are insufflated and chewing tobacco, also known as snus.

Replacement therapies

Nicotine is also extracted from tobacco and reformulated into products intended to assist users who wish to cease use of tobacco products like cigarettes. Popular products include sublingual lozenges and sprays, skin patches, inhalers, and solutions used for oral use or in conjunction with a vaporizer.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers

More recently, nicotine in liquid forms (commonly called e-liquid) intended for vaporizing in electronic cigarettes has become popular as an alternative to smoking. Unlike products intended to assist in smoking cessation, e-cigarettes are not typically licensed or marketed as medical devices. This can lead to E-cigarettes containing additives that can be dangerous such as: Diacetyl (chemical linked to lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans or better known as "popcorn lung"), Diethylene glycol (ingredient used in antifreeze, linked to lung diseases), Heavy metals (usually nickel, tin, or lead), benzene (A VOC found in car exhaust),and Acrolein (a herbicide, can cause irreversible lung damage).[12]

Moist dipping tobacco

Dipping tobacco (dip, chew, chaw, snuff, etc.) is a form of tobacco that is cut in fine, medium, long, or extra long cut shreds and is placed in the gingiva of either side and floor of the mouth. It is fermented, unlike Swedish snus, which is pasteurized. It is known to produce excess saliva that needs to be spat out, otherwise the user may experience nausea. It gives a buzz and feeling of lightheadedness to the user. Dip may be put into pouches to produce an Americanized version of Swedish snus.

Swedish snus

Snus, is a Swedish form of tobacco that is ground down, then put into small, soft pouches (often made of a similar material to tea bags), which the user puts in the space under the upper lip and gum (gingiva). Nicotine passes into the bloodstream through the process of diffusion. Snus is available without any taste additives as a natural taste, but is also available in various taste options: menthol, vanilla, bergamot, citrus and others.

The tobacco is treated with brine and sodium carbonate for strength and then either fermented or pasteurized in a heat processor. After this, the snus is treated with aromas and flavors accordingly. "Wet snus" intended for oral use is, therefore, not entirely different from chewing tobacco.[13]

Toxicity and harm potential

Radar plot showing relative physical harm, social harm, and dependence of nicotine in the form tobacco[14]

It is strongly recommended that one use harm reduction practices when using this substance.

Lethal dosage

Nicotine has an estimated oral LD50 of 6.5 - 13 mg/kg in humans, which is much lower than many other common stimulants. It is unlikely that overdose can be achieved by smoking tobacco. However, coadministration with other sources of nicotine such as patches or gum may potentially be dangerous.

Nicotine readily passes through the dermis and into the bloodstream upon contact with skin, so safety precautions should be taken when handling it in its pure form.

Flavored e-liquids intended for use in e-cigarette devices can present a particular danger to children, and there have been cases recorded where children have mistakenly consumed e-liquid products with fatal results.[15]

Tolerance and addiction potential

Nicotine activates the reward system (mesolimbic pathway) of the brain, which is responsible for its addictive nature. Because of this, tobacco smoking is extremely addictive with a high potential for abuse. When addiction has developed, cravings and withdrawal effects may occur if a person suddenly stops their usage.

Chronic use of nicotine, as with many other addictive substances, downregulates the production of dopamine and other stimulatory neurotransmitters and also desensitizes nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. In response, the brain upregulates the number of receptors presented. The net effect is an increase in sensitivity to the reward system; the opposite of the decrease in sensitivity as caused by addictive substances like cocaine and heroin.

In some people, it can take as little as one or two cigarettes before reaching 100% tolerance. This means a decreased dizziness from smoking. Nicotine leaves the system very rapidly. The half-life of nicotine in the brain is about 90 minutes. In 8 or 9 hours, the brain has cleared the active drug completely.[16]

Tolerance to the effects of this compound rapidly develops with prolonged and repeated use. This results in users having to administer increasingly large doses to achieve the same effects. After that, it takes about 3 - 7 days for the tolerance to be reduced to half and 1 - 2 weeks to be back at baseline (in the absence of further consumption). Nicotine does not present a cross-tolerance with other dopaminergic stimulants, meaning that after the use of nicotine all stimulants will not have a reduced effect.

Following discontinuation of nicotine, receptors may take several months to return to baseline.


Nicotine has been indicated in the increased frequency of congenital disabilities and has been correlated with the increase of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

Legal status

Nicotine is legal nearly all over the world and is one of the most popularly used substances. The sale of tobacco products are usually restricted to adults, and they are often heavily taxed.

  • Australia: From 1 October 2021, Nicotine in salt or freebase forms (including solutions) are illegal to import into the country without a license and permit. This also includes refillable nicotine pods and any vape products containing nicotine.[17]
  • Bhutan: Tobacco products are legal, but their public use is restricted to specific smoke-friendly areas.[18]

See also

External links


  1. Siegmund, B., Leitner, E., Pfannhauser, W. (1 August 1999). "Determination of the Nicotine Content of Various Edible Nightshades (Solanaceae) and Their Products and Estimation of the Associated Dietary Nicotine Intake". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 47 (8): 3113–3120. doi:10.1021/jf990089w. ISSN 0021-8561. 
  2. PubChem, Nicotine, retrieved 14 August 2020 
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021), Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products DrugFacts 
  4. Tomizawa, M., Casida, J. E. (22 September 2005). "NEONICOTINOID INSECTICIDE TOXICOLOGY: Mechanisms of Selective Action". Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 45 (1): 247–268. doi:10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.45.120403.095930. ISSN 0362-1642. 
  5. Mishra, A., Chaturvedi, P., Datta, S., Sinukumar, S., Joshi, P., Garg, A. (January 2015). "Harmful effects of nicotine". Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology. 36 (01): 24–31. doi:10.4103/0971-5851.151771. ISSN 0971-5851. 
  6. "Shamanic Tobaccos". Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge - A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution. Bantam. 1992. p. 196. ISBN 0-553-37130-4. 
  7. Pomerleau, O. F., Pomerleau, C. S. (December 1984). "Neuroregulators and the reinforcement of smoking: Towards a biobehavioral explanation". Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 8 (4): 503–513. doi:10.1016/0149-7634(84)90007-1. ISSN 0149-7634. 
  8. Pomerleau, O. F., Rosecrans, J. (January 1989). "Neuroregulatory effects of nicotine". Psychoneuroendocrinology. 14 (6): 407–423. doi:10.1016/0306-4530(89)90040-1. ISSN 0306-4530. 
  9. Chen, G., Blevins-Primeau, A. S., Dellinger, R. W., Muscat, J. E., Lazarus, P. (1 October 2007). "Glucuronidation of nicotine and cotinine by UGT2B10: loss of function by the UGT2B10 Codon 67 (Asp>Tyr) polymorphism". Cancer Research. 67 (19): 9024–9029. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-2245. ISSN 0008-5472. 
  10. Page, F., Coleman, G., Conduit, R. (30 July 2006). "The effect of transdermal nicotine patches on sleep and dreams". Physiology & Behavior. 88 (4): 425–432. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.04.009. ISSN 0031-9384. 
  11. Hossain, A. M., Salehuddin, S. M. (1 July 2013). "Analytical determination of nicotine in tobacco leaves by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry". Arabian Journal of Chemistry. 6 (3): 275–278. doi:10.1016/j.arabjc.2010.10.006. ISSN 1878-5352. 
  12. What’s in an E-Cigarette? 
  13. Snusbolaget (2018), Snustillverkning – Alla lagar & regler 
  14. Nutt, D., King, L. A., Saulsbury, W., Blakemore, C. (24 March 2007). "Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse". The Lancet. 369 (9566): 1047–1053. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60464-4. ISSN 0140-6736. 
  15. Seo, A. D., Kim, D. C., Yu, H. J., Kang, M. J. (December 2016). "Accidental ingestion of E-cigarette liquid nicotine in a 15-month-old child: an infant mortality case of nicotine intoxication". Korean Journal of Pediatrics. 59 (12): 490–493. doi:10.3345/kjp.2016.59.12.490. ISSN 1738-1061. 
  16. Perkins, K. A. (1 November 2002). "Chronic tolerance to nicotine in humans and its relationship to tobacco dependence". Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 4 (4): 405–422. doi:10.1080/1462220021000018425. ISSN 1462-2203. 
  17. TGA Vaping and Nicotine Import Ban |
  18. Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan, 2010 (in both Dzongkha and English), government of Bhutan. PDF file