Why I Use Nicotine Gum as a Nootropic

If you were to do a haul of my desk, you would find my pack of nicotine gum.

Upon hearing this, I bet you’d assume that I was a smoker and I use nicotine gum to help quit.

But guess what? I’ve NEVER been a smoker.

So why do I chew nicotine gum? Well, it turns out that nicotine is actually a powerful smart drug (nootropic) that can be used for improved performance and cognitive enhancement.

Many of my friends and family seemed shocked and gave me a strange look when I told them I occasionally chew nicotine gum. However, the science behind the benefits of nicotine is solid.

Read on to learn why I use nicotine gum as a nootropic, plus the pros and cons of this biohack.*

*Disclaimer: By writing this post I am definitely NOT suggesting to start smoking or using tobacco as a means for nicotine consumption.

What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a naturally occurring alkaloid produced in the nightshade family of plants. Of course, you most likely know that nicotine can be found in tobacco, but it can also be found in several more nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Similar to caffeine, nicotine serves as one of the plant’s defense mechanisms to prevent being eaten by animals, insects, or fungus. Since nicotine is bitter and toxic in large doses, it keeps these predators away.

After being absorbed into the bloodstream, nicotine readily crosses the blood brain barrier (BBB). It then binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, specifically, alpha-4, beta-2, and alpha-7. Nicotine mimics the effects of acetylcholine (an excitatory neurotransmitter) in the brain. Binding to these receptors not only enables nicotine to act upon the brain, but also the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Nicotine also increases levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, glutamate, and endorphins.


Benefits of nicotine

Before we get into the benefits of nicotine and why I use nicotine gum as a nootropic, I first have to say that it is true that too much nicotine is not a good thing. However, low doses of nicotine have actually been proven to be beneficial.


Here is a quick overview of the benefits of nicotine, which I will discuss in detail below:



  • Increases your motivation, ability to pay attention, and creativity

  • Provides faster, more precise motor function

  • Improves your short-term memory

  • Neuroprotective

  • Promotes wound healing

  • Suppresses appetite



Increases your motivation, ability to pay attention, and creativity

One of the main reasons that I use nicotine gum as a nootropic is because of its ability to increase my motivation, ability to pay attention, and creativity.


Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that nicotine acutely increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, thalamus, and visual system consistent with activation of corticobasal ganglia and thalamic brain circuits.


According to SelfHacked.com, nicotine puts users into an alpha brainwave state, which is characterized by effortless alertness, attention, and creativity. Nicotine also increases wakefulness, mood, and motivation via activating orexin (a neuropeptide that regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite).


Nicotine can help to increase your attention. Multiple studies have shown that both nicotine patches and nicotine gum helped study participants pay attention to a mentally tiring task longer than controls could. Nicotine activates the occipital and parietal cortices, which are the command centers for sustained attention and visual processing tasks. Nicotine is also capable of increasing processing speed for complex tasks.



Improves your short-term memory & provides faster, more precise motor function


Research has found that nicotine can improve both immediate and long-term memory. One study found that participants who took nicotine better recalled a list of words they’d just read, and also repeated a story word-for-word, making fewer mistakes than participants given placebo made. Nicotine also improves fine motor skills, such as handwriting.



Neuroprotective

Nicotine is considered to be “neuroprotective”, which means it to protects nerve cells against damage, degeneration, or impairment of function.


There are several mechanisms through which nicotine is neuroprotective:


  • Anti-estrogenic effects

  • Decreasing inflammation (regulates prostaglandin production: prostanoids promote or restrain acute inflammation).

  • Stimulation of nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain


Promotes wound healing

Nicotine at a low concentration promotes wound healing by stimulating vasculogenesis and angiogenesis (growth of tissues and blood vessel capillaries). Nicotine also helps to repair damaged blood vessels and increase blood circulation, which speeds up wound healing. This effects are accomplished with nicotine patches.




Suppresses appetite

Nicotine is well known to be an appetite suppressant. It works by first interacting with the β4 subunit of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors that are expressed by pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, thereby activating the POMC neurons and causing the release of the hormone melanocortin. This increase metabolism and decreases hunger. Nicotine can also lower insulin levels in the bloodstream, which can reduce cravings for sugary foods.


Plus, combining nicotine with caffeine could provide even more appetite-suppressing benefits. One randomized, double-blind study demonstrated that combining low-dose nicotine gum with caffeine enhanced appetite suppression.


In sum

Due to all of these beneficial effects, researchers have are now evaluating the role nicotine could play in improving conditions such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and various other health problems This blog post is not going to cover how nicotine can specifically benefit these conditions because I just wanted to share the general benefits of nicotine and why I occasionally use nicotine gum as a nootropic. However, this doesn’t mean nicotine doesn’t come without any drawbacks.  


Drawbacks of nicotine

As a biohacker, it’s important to know both the pros and cons of using nicotine gum as a nootropic before trying this biohack.


Addictive potential

You’re probably aware that one drawback of nicotine is its addictive potential. What’s interesting, however, is what researchers have discovered about the addictive potential of tobacco and nicotine. While tobacco is quite addictive, animal models indicate that nicotine on its own is much less addictive than tobacco.


Potential to increase tumor growth

Nicotine has been found to make tumors grow faster and spread more quickly in mice. However, the cancer link has never been demonstrated in human studies, so it’s difficult to say whether nicotine is a cancer risk for people. If you have or previously had cancer, it is probably not a good idea to use nicotine gum as a nootropic.


Stimulant effects

Since nicotine is a stimulant, it can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and constrict blood vessels. If you have cardiovascular conditions, it is probably not a good idea to use nicotine gum as a nootropic. Of course, always consult with your physician first.


Toxic in high doses

When using nicotine as a nootropic, I am talking about using low doses and only doing so occasionally. This is because nicotine is lethal if ingested in high enough doses. Always store and treat any nicotine products with care so pets and/or children cannot get ahold of them.



My experience with using nicotine gum as a nootropic

Using nicotine gum as a nootropic is one of my favorite biohacks. I will chew one piece of 2mg nicotine gum typically in the afternoon since I drink coffee in the morning. I do not chew nicotine gum every day, and I do not feel addicted or dependent on it. If I run out of nicotine gum, it’s no big deal; I do not have cravings for it. One drawback of nicotine gum that I have noticed is that it can cause me to have an upset stomach if I chew the gum on an empty stomach. Another drawback of nicotine gum is that most brands contain artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and/or sucralose. Apparently nicotine lozenges and nicotine spray have very little amounts of artificial sweeteners. Overall, I think using nicotine gum as a nootropic is valuable when used appropriately.




References:

https://selfhacked.com/blog/28-proven-health-benefits-nicotine-4-potential-risks/

https://blog.bulletproof.com/is-nicotine-the-next-big-smart-drug/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946180/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine

https://arstechnica.com/science/2011/06/researchers-learning-how-nicotine-works-as-an-appetite-suppresant/