UKPCS Science Chemistry: Nicotine #24

Oracle IAS, the best coaching institute for UPSC/IAS/PCS preparation in Dehradun brings to you UKPCS Science Chemistry (paper 6). 


Nicotine is a potent parasympathomimetic stimulant and an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants. Nicotine constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco.It also occurs in edible plants, especially Solanaceae such as eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes, but at trace levels generally under 200 nanograms per gram.

Nicotine functions as an antiherbivore chemical; consequently, nicotine was widely used as an insecticide in the past and neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid are currently widely used.

Nicotine is highly addictive. An average cigarette yields about 2 mg of absorbed nicotine, and in lesser doses of that order, the substance acts as a stimulant in mammals, while high amounts (50–100 mg) can be harmful. This stimulant effect is a contributing factor to the addictive properties of tobacco smoking. Nicotine’s addictive nature includes psychoactive effects, drug-reinforced behavior, compulsive use, and relapse after abstinence, physical dependence and tolerance.

At high-enough doses, nicotine is associated with poisonings and is potentially lethal. The use of electronic cigarettes, which are designed to be refilled with nicotine-containing e-liquid, has raised concerns over nicotine overdoses, especially with regard to the possibility of young children ingesting the liquids.

Although there is insufficient evidence to classify nicotine as a carcinogen, there is an ongoing debate about whether it functions as a tumor promoter. Nicotine in the form of nicotine replacement products is less of a cancer risk than smoking


  • Medical: The primary therapeutic use of nicotine is in treating nicotine dependence in order to eliminate smoking with the damage it does to health. Egs nicotine patch.
  • Performance: Nicotine is frequently used for its performance-enhancing effects on cognition, alertness, and focus.
  • Recreational drug: Nicotine is commonly consumed as a recreational drug for its stimulant effects.
  • It is also used in insecticides.

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