Although in recent years tobacco consumption has been reduced overall, smoking is still common and a habit that, although harmful and dangerous to health in the long term, is still carried out by large numbers of people.

Most smokers find some pleasure and a sense of tranquility in consuming this substance, which is also socially accepted and traditionally associated with maturity or virility/femininity. However, it is an exogenous substance to our body that will have different effects on the body. For example, many people have reported on occasion that they have felt dizzy when smoking . Is this normal? Why does it happen? In this article we will try to answer these questions.

Nicotine: type of substance and effects on the body

One of the main substances in tobacco (although many other substances, many of them toxic, can be found in a cigarette) is nicotine.

This substance has psychoactive properties, and is the main responsible for tobacco’s physical addiction. It is considered a psychostimulant substance , despite the fact that continued consumption ends up causing depressive effects. This is why most regular smokers feel feelings of relaxation when consuming it and tend to smoke more frequently when they feel nervous.

The mechanism of action of nicotine is based on its action on acetylcholine receptors , specifically nicotinics. It acts as an agonist of this substance, having an effect on the central nervous system (in the cortex, limbic system and basal ganglia, among others) and peripheral, as well as on the cardiovascular and adrenal systems. However, with long-term consumption it ends up having a blocking action of this neurotransmitter.

At low doses, it initially generates an increase in cholinergic activity, causing an increase in the level of activation and alertness. Higher doses generate feelings of pleasure by helping to activate the limbic system through dopamine synthesis. It also has an effect on increasing levels of cortisol , ACTH, prolactin, vasopressin and growth hormone. At the cardiovascular level, nicotine causes vasoconstriction, so the blood passes faster and with greater pressure. This causes the heart to work faster, and at the same time it carries less oxygen, also increasing the inhalation rate.

In the adrenal cortex, nicotine acts by generating a stimulation that results in the release of adrenaline. Finally, it hinders the action of the pancreas by causing the release of insulin (which allows us to degrade blood sugar) to be reduced.

Dizziness from smoking: is it normal?

Smoking, as indicated by the various advertising campaigns we can see today, can have serious long-term harmful effects, especially at the respiratory level. Emphysema, injuries and lung diseases or different types of cancer (such as lung or trachea) have been significantly associated with the continued consumption of tobacco .

But in addition to these effects, it can also cause various discomforts and unpleasant effects during or after the act of doing so. These include nausea, vomiting and dizziness, the latter being relatively common.

Why do we feel dizzy when we smoke?

Generally, dizziness is more common in people who are beginning to have their first tobacco use or in people who return to smoking after a long time without it, as well as in those who quit abruptly. These dizzinesses can occur under various circumstances.

First of all, we have to take into account the fact that smoking is mainly about repeatedly inhaling a substance that will enter the lungs, being this substance irritating and making it difficult for the respiratory system to integrate enough oxygen level in the brain. Likewise, the vasoconstrictive effect of nicotine causes the blood vessels to be compressed , passing the blood at a much greater speed than usual and can generate hypertension. All these effects are some of the reasons why in the first consumptions or after spending long periods without smoking the body reacts by producing dizziness.

Another reason can be found in intoxication if the amount consumed is excessive, or when other substances such as alcohol have been consumed that could interact with the effects of tobacco. The internal balance to which our body is accustomed suffers an alteration that can generate various symptoms .

Likewise, dizziness due to lack of oxygen need not occur only in smokers who have just started. Bearing in mind that this substance damages the respiratory system, if you suffer from a lung disease due to this or other reasons, the consumption of tobacco can generate these effects in a more habitual way.

Another moment when dizziness usually appears is when a person who has acquired tolerance and dependence on nicotine stops using it abruptly . This is because the body has become accustomed to a certain balance that suddenly undergoes a change. In this case we would be facing a symptom of withdrawal.

The blocking of the cholinergic action generated by long-term exposure to nicotine and the increase in the number of nicotine receptors generated by habituation would in this case be responsible for the organism not being in balance and would generate symptoms.

Bibliographic references

  • Pozuelos, J.; Martinena, P.; Monago, L.; Viejo, D. and Pérez, T. (2000). Pharmacology of nicotine. Medicina Integral, 35 (9): 409-417. Elsevier