If you’ve ever smoked a cigarette or had a puff on a vape, you’ll be familiar with the concept of a ‘nicotine buzz’ or a ‘nicotine rush’. It’s a pleasant sensation that you experience as the body absorbs nicotine.
That might come as a surprise to non-smokers, who often assume that there is ‘no point’ in smoking cigarettes because they have no psychoactive effects.
On the contrary, nicotine is a stimulant. In fact, nicotine is the second most popular stimulant in the world after caffeine.
Sometimes, nicotine buzz can last for what feels like seconds, whilst other times it seems to go on for much longer. So exactly how long does a nicotine buzz last?
Well, to put it simply, the answer is ‘it depends’. If you want to find out more about the nicotine buzz, though, you’ve come to the right place. Firstly, for those not familiar with nicotine, we’ll ask: what does a nicotine buzz feel like?
What Does A Nicotine Buzz Feel Like?
As we mentioned earlier, nicotine is a mild stimulant, and as a result it slightly alters a person’s mental state.
The so-called buzz can be best described as a feeling of light-headedness that becomes apparent within seconds of consuming nicotine.
People also most commonly self-report feeling calmer, feeling dizzy, and -paradoxically- also feeling more alert or focused and able to concentrate better.
The latter two side effects aren’t typically associated with the ‘buzz’ itself, whereas the former are. The buzz tends to be associated mostly with being new to nicotine, or consuming large quantities over a short period of time.
The buzz itself is best thought of as a calming, light-headed feeling accompanied by an elevated mood.
Whilst you might feel great, there’s actually a lot going on in your body when you experience a nicotine buzz, and you can sometimes end up feeling pretty bad. You may experience unpleasant side effects such as:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Breathing problems
When you’ve gotten over the high, you might also find yourself with a decreased appetite, and generally duller senses.
Two of the more subtle ways that nicotine affects your body after the high are increased glucose production, and a drop in your skin temperature.
What Causes A Nicotine Buzz?
So that’s how a nicotine buzz feels, and how it affects your body. But what is going on in your body to cause it? Well, when you smoke a cigarette or inhale from a vape, nicotine immediately enters your bloodstream and will quickly reach the brain.
Once there, nicotine triggers your central nervous system to release certain chemicals and hormones. One of them, epinephrine (adrenaline) is responsible for the nicotine buzz.
It gets your heart pumping, increases blood pressure, dilates the pupils, expands the airways, and alters your metabolism and blood sugar levels.
If you’re familiar with adrenaline, you’ll know that it sends the body into fight or flight mode, which is associated with many of the same sensations as a nicotine rush- increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and increased alertness.
When it reaches the brain, nicotine also attaches itself to the acetylcholine receptors, which are responsible for the levels of dopamine in the body.
Nicotine causes these receptors to release dopamine into the body, which then activates the body’s pleasure and reward complex.
Basically, a nicotine rush is a combination of the release of adrenaline and dopamine, two chemicals that have an extremely powerful effect on the brain. So it’s easy to see why so many people chase nicotine buzz!
How Long Does A Nicotine Buzz Last?
When inhaled, the effects of nicotine can begin within ten seconds. Generally, the buzz lasts around ten to thirty minutes. Having said that, how long a nicotine buzz lasts depends on the person’s tolerance.
The longer a person uses nicotine products, the more they will build up a tolerance to its effects, and pretty soon they will find that the buzz becomes shorter and shorter lasting.
Sooner or later, most long-time nicotine users will find that the buzz becomes increasingly elusive.
Although it may reappear if a regular user has gone for an extended length of time without any nicotine and then inhales some, many heavy smokers and vapers reach the point where they no longer experience any buzz from nicotine.
They do, of course, but they’ve simply become so used to its effects that they no longer notice them. The result is that they chase the buzz by consuming more and more nicotine, which obviously has negative health consequences.
Can You Get The Buzz Back?
Sadly for regular consumers of nicotine, there is only one way to get the buzz back. That’s to withdraw from using nicotine completely, so that the nicotine receptors are ‘empty’.
Depending on how much you smoke, this could take some time. Alternatively, one way that long-term smokers and vapers can still experience something like a nicotine buzz is first thing in the morning.
The body’s nicotine receptors will have emptied overnight, as it will have gone for quite a few hours without any nicotine. That’s why many smokers will tell you that the morning cigarette is the best, as it’s when the brain is most primed to top up on nicotine.
Do Oral Tobacco Products Create Nicotine Buzz?
Oral forms of nicotine are absorbed into the bloodstream through the mouth and throat.
They are extremely effective at maintaining a high level of nicotine in the blood over a long period, but never quite create that instant sensation known as nicotine buzz or rush.
That’s because inhaling is a much quicker method of delivering nicotine to the brain than oral tobacco, which absorbs it much slower.
The length of a nicotine buzz depends largely on the person’s tolerance. The longer you have been using nicotine, the shorter and shorter the buzz will become, to the point where it no longer feels like you’re getting a buzz at all- even when you are.
The only way to get the pleasant, light-headed feeling back when you consume nicotine is to moderate your intake, or go without for a while, so your nicotine receptors empty.