Some people will tell you that nicotine gives them a burst of energy and some people will say it makes them sleepy. This is true on both accounts, but is likely because of the dose. Nicotine is actually both a sedative and a stimulant, but it depends on how much is consumed.
Nicotine as a Stimulant
Nicotine works as a stimulant in the body almost immediately because it stimulates the adrenal glands. This stimulation releases adrenaline, which causes a release of glucose.
The increase of glucose translates to increased blood sugar levels This gives you instant energy, just like when we eat processed foods like white bread. When this process happens with food, the body releases insulin to tell our cells to absorb this sugar and bring blood glucose down to safe levels. This is the crash that you get after eating crappy food that turns into sugar in the body. Your energy goes up but then your body forces it to come back down.
But nicotine works differently than food. Nicotine actually suppresses insulin output, which means the blood sugar remains in the blood, rather than being absorbed by the cells. This causes users to be slightly hyperglycemic, which means there is an excessive amount of glucose in the bloodstream. This is why doctors recommend against people with diabetes using nicotine.
All of this means that nicotine will give you a similar energy rush as processed foods, but the energy will last a lot longer.
Another way that nicotine can increase energy is because it causes a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that encourages us to act and be motivated.
Nicotine as a Sedative
Nicotine can also be a sedative. Once nicotine reaches the brain, it causes the release of many different hormones and neurotransmitters, one of which being beta-endorphin.
Beta-endorphin reduces anxiety and is used in the body to numb pain. It’s the endorphin your body releases after some sort of physical trauma. It activates opioid receptors and has 18 to 33x the potency of morphine. This is your body’s natural painkiller. If you’re a runner, you’d recognize this is a runner’s high during a long endurance run.
Beta-endorphin can also ease emotional distress, create a sense of well-being, and produce a sense of euphoria.
Using Nicotine To Get Your Desired Results
Are you looking for energy or a way to relax?
Studies have shown that nicotine starts out as a stimulant in small dosages, but when the dose increases, it changes into a sedative.
So if you want energy, take a few quick puffs and move on. If you want to relax, take long drags and chain vape for a longer period of time.
There doesn’t appear to be an exact dose at which either effect changes. It likely depends on the person and their sensitivity to nicotine.