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Serotonin & Nicotine Interaction

author image Derek Smith
Derek Smith has been a freelance writer since 2008. He specializes in health and fitness and travel articles for eHow and Professionally, Smith is a certified personal trainer. He holds both the American Fitness Professionals and Associates certification and National Council on Strength and Fitness certification, as well as CPR certification through The American Heart Association's Healthcare Provider CPR Program.
Serotonin & Nicotine Interaction
Nicotine can affect how much serotonin your brain releases. Photo Credit: Ben Thomas/iStock/Getty Images

Nicotine is a chemical often found in cigarettes and many over-the-counter anti-smoking aids. Quitting smoking greatly helps increase your life expectancy, lung function and overall health. Nicotine also has an impact on the amount of serotonin your brain releases, which causes dependency.

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Your brain produces a chemical called serotonin, housed in the hippocampus in the prefrontal cortex, and is used for nerve cells and brain function. Serotonin is also known as a transmitter and helps pass nerve impulses from one cell to the next. It's considered to be an important regulating chemical. According to, serotonin plays an important role in sexuality, depression and bipolar disorder. Certain drugs as well as dietary supplements can increase serotonin levels, which may result in serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin Syndrome

Serotonin syndrome is caused by an increased level of serotonin that's accumulated within your body. When too much serotonin is accumulated, it can cause symptoms such as shivering, diarrhea, fever, muscle rigidity and seizures. Sometimes, serotonin syndrome can become so bad that it's fatal. Serotonin syndrome can go away within a few days once the medication or dietary supplement that caused the symptoms is discontinued, or serotonin blockers may be used to treat the condition.


Nicotine is available in the form of lozenges, gum, patches, spray and inhalers, as well as cigarettes. Common side effects of nicotine include nausea, headache, sweating, itching, burning, dry mouth, difficulty sleeping, sore throat, hoarse voice and sinus irritation. Severe side effects of nicotine include hives, blurred vision, severe allergic reactions, coughs, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue or skin.


According to, the George Washington University Medical Center conducted an experiment within the Department of Pharmacology with regard to the effects of nicotine and serotonin on rats. The results from the study concluded that long-term exposure of nicotine on rats significantly increased the rats' serotonin levels. Rats that received only a single dose of nicotine had a very brief increase of serotonin levels, and the amount of serotonin released was time-dependent.


Chronic and long-term exposure of nicotine can increase serotonin levels, causing a chemical dependency. Quitting smoking can feel overwhelming but can be manageable and accomplished. According to the Mayo Clinic, try delaying or putting off the urge to smoke. Keep telling yourself "Just 10 more minutes," then after those 10 minutes are up, try another 10 minutes. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can have just one to ease the craving; you could be setting yourself up for falling back into old habits. Become more physically active to keep yourself busy. It may take your mind off of the urge to light up. Join support groups and call reinforcement when the urge to smoke arises. You may also want to try chewing gum, holding a stick of candy or another method to fixate the hand-to-mouth cessation you're used to doing.

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