We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Nicotine Receptors?

By Jennifer Voight
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Nicotine receptors, more properly known as nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, are located in the brain and are made to accept acetylcholine, the most common neurotransmitter in the human body. Acetylcholine affects heart rate, breathing, and indirectly affects mood, memory, and appetite. Nicotine is an addictive substance in cigarette smoke whose molecules are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and attach to nicotine receptors in the brain, causing many of the same effects of acetylcholine and stimulating the production of dopamine, a chemical that creates feelings of pleasure. It is believed that the release of dopamine by stimulated nicotine receptors is responsible for the addictive effects of cigarette smoking and tobacco use.

Exposure to nicotine causes nicotine receptors to activate in a similar way to exposure to acetylcholine, but the effects last longer. Stress further intensifies the pleasurable effect and increases the likelihood of nicotine addiction. After repeated exposure to nicotine in cigarette smoke, more nicotine receptors appear in the brain. The body craves more nicotine to experience the same surge of dopamine. This addictive effect may begin within two days of the first cigarette.

Withdrawal from cigarettes causes mood changes, difficulty sleeping, and concentration problems. These symptoms may appear within several hours of the last cigarette and last for more than a month after stopping. If a smoker can abstain from smoking this long, the number of nicotine receptors will eventually return to normal levels and physically based cravings for cigarettes will nearly disappear.

Research into how nicotine receptors work has led to the development of products that can stimulate the effects of nicotine on receptors and reduce cravings to help smokers stop the smoking habit. The nicotine patch is applied to the skin and delivers nicotine transdermally, or through the skin, to control cravings. Nicotine patches are available in various strengths or dosages so that dosage can be reduced over time.

Nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges are smoking cessation aids that are taken by mouth. Like the nicotine patch, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges help conquer smoking cravings by supplying nicotine to the body. Both the gum and lozenges may help provide some of the oral gratification acquired through the smoking ritual and give added support during smoking withdrawal. As with the nicotine patch, smokers should gradually wean themselves from nicotine gums and lozenges over time.

It’s important to remember that smoking cessation aids alone will not break the addiction. Most of the work must be done by the smoker. Smoking cessation aids address only the physical cravings. There are also many psychological and ritual habits associated with smoking that need to be addressed simultaneously with the physical aspects of nicotine addiction in order to stop smoking successfully.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1003510 — On Jul 09, 2020

Nicotine gum is highly addictive too. And surely the drug is created in a flavorful package of gum to better facilitate addiction to the gum, as another way to make loads of money. I had quit cigarettes for some time and then when my friend was trying to quit, I picked up her nicotine gum and was quickly back into a nicotine addiction that lasted years. Chewing the gum, I spent more money than I did buying cigarettes! It is extremely expensive and very hard to quit. As difficult as as it was quitting cigarettes if not more difficult.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.