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Some notes on nicotine, absorption, addictiveness and MAOIs

Discussion in 'Nicotine' started by kinabaloo, Oct 28, 2009.

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  1. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Part 1 : Nicotine absorption in vaping versus smoking

    Some studies stated that vaping provides only about 10% of the nicotine compared to smoking - is this figure wrong?

    Probably, yes. While I am quite sure that many people get less nicotine than they think they do, it is surly not 10% - e-cigs just wouldn't work at that level.

    What's the likely explanation for the erroneous 10% figure?

    Only about 40-45% of the nicotine in e-liquid makes it out of the atomiser and into the vapor. I cut that vaporised nicotine by 25% as an approximate figure for that unabsorbed/exhaled to give 30% absorbed. Still 3x the 10%. So something is being missed in those (not many) 10%-ish studies. One possibility is that it misses the slower rate of aborption by measuring effect of one 10 minute session of vaping at a fixed point; missing the cumulative value. That's always been my prime explanation. Alternatively, but less likely, some of the nicotine is missed in the analysis somehow - it is there but not being measured; the form may be different; and while it sounds silly to say that perhaps the nicotine recombines with glycols in the blood, perhaps 'something' like this is occuring. But the absorption rate is likely the answer.

    How can e-cigs be being successful if the nicotine is much lower than what people were used to?

    Somehow that 30% figure still allows e-cigs to be successful for most people (though not all - some can only stick it by increasing the nic substantially, to match what they have been used to). For that majority, what I think happens is: initially, and because of the novelty, the shortfall is compensated by increased volumes - vaping much more than used to smoke (more puffs); so the total nicotine per day (rather than per puff) is raised to near the accustomed value. This pattern of use subsides gradually, slowly enough for the body to adjust (perhaps with a need for a stronger vape in the morning).

    So not only have most vapers cut the tar and soot, they have likely also cut their nicotine somewhat too.

    How addictive is nicotine?

    Related to this is the issue of just how addictive nicotine really is. Perhaps by itself it is not as addictive as generally believed - as evidenced by quite a few people being able to cut their nicotine use to zero in just days or weeks. The really addictive thing could be the combination of nic plus MAOIs (for which biochemistry of this double-whammy makes good sense), with perhaps other factors involved too.

    More on MAOIs in part 2, below.

    What about the missing buzz I used to feel when smoking an analog?

    The 'buzz' that many people feel is missing with e-cigs could be the absence of the nicotine/MAOI 'double whammy', in particular. Even when the nicotine is raised, it doesn't give that special feeling - and this is not about freebase or some other nature of the nic, but the absence of the MAOIs. Alternatively, a slower absorption rate could (at least partly) account for it.

    Is the nicotine from vaping really more slowly absorbed?

    It is not clear yet, but it is quite likely that this is the case. In the past it had been thought that analog nicotine was faster to the bloodstream (and brain) because it had 'special' freebase (un-combined) nicotine; in fact e-liquid has more nicotine in this freebase form. The reason would be down to the carrier - with smoking, the nicotine (normally a liquid at room temperature) is carried on tiny particles of ash. With vaping the carrier is a liquid (small droplets of PG or VG in which the nicotine is disolved (the visible fog of recondensed vapor). Not only are the liquid droplets larger than the ash (smoke) particles, but it is harder for the nicotine to 'escape' the liquid that the ash (the nicotine is sitting on the outside of the ash, so to speak).

    A further factor comes into play - the smaller size of the particles in analog smoke mean that (much) more of the nicotine reaches the lungs, where passage to the bloodstream is far easier (the barrier is much less here because the haemoglobin of red blood cells in the blood needs to be able to latch onto oxygen from the air; with digestion, absorption of sugars, say, needs to be slower as blood sugar levels need to be tightly controlled, so absorbtion in the mouth is much slower).

    * Smoke particle size : 0.1 to 1 micron; PG mist droplet size : 1 to 5 micron

    Part 2: Nicotine, addiction and MAOIs

    How does smoking affect the brain?

    The psychological effects of smoking are surprisingly mild considering that smoking is generally regarded as hard to stop. While there are many behavioual and sensory aspects, nicotine has been regarded as the psychoactive ingredient, providing a mix or relaxation and improvement of focus and concentration (though some of this might be down to relief of the craving that builds up between cigarettes, there is good evidence to suggest that nicotine does have some beneficial effects on brain function).
    Nicotine's effect on the brain is primarily through release of dopamine, the pleasure or 'reward' neurotransmitter that gives a sense of well-being.

    Is nicotine the key psychoactive in smoking?

    "I question, however, whether nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco. If it were, nicotine patches should satisfy a smoker's craving for tobacco; they don't! In prisons, where, as a part of the punishment, smoking is sometimes forbidden, the inmates take to smoking corn silk, paper, string, etc., none of which contain any nicotine. ... The authors of the widely respected "Merck Manual" say only that it is "probably" the active ingredient. ... The active ingredient in smoke is smoke."
    The first point is a very good one. Then, all psychoactive chemicals aside, there are the pleasures of that smoky taste (a mild dose of the harshness of tar can be experienced as pleasurable, lie say a hot chilli or a strong spirit) and of the (blowing out of) smoke ('sensory and behavioural cues'); de-niconised cigarettes can stave off cravings to some extent.

    What are MAOIs and what is their significance in smoking?

    Brain chemistry is a complex of of balanced systems. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) role is to inhibit the removal of monoamines, of which dopamine is one, prolonging the effect of the monoamines. As such these chemicals are sometimes used as anti-depressant drugs; predictably, some dependence is created (cessation causes withdrawal symptoms). Hence, MAOIs act in synergy with nicotine to enhance its effect by keeping dopamine levels higher for longer.
    "Among the different compounds contained in tobacco smoke, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) have recently been the focus of a particular interest (Berlin and Anthenelli, 2001). Monoamines are neurotransmitters found in the central nervous system. They are involved in sending signals to the brain which regulate sleep, arousal and pleasure ("Dopamine"). The three main monoamines studied by researchers are dopamine (DA), norepinephrine and serotonin. Monoamine oxidase is one enzyme responsible for the degradation of the monoamines. MAOIs are molecules that inhibit monoamine oxidase, and as a result increase the levels of monoamines found in the brain. According to newly developed research, a synergy between nicotine and MAOIs could be of importance for tobacco addiction to set up (Berlin and Anthenelli, 2001). Then, the association between nicotine and MAOI seems to be an appropriate model to study mechanisms underlying tobacco addiction."

    There might be other substances that play an active role in the brain chemistry effects of smoking*, though so far MAOIs appear to be the key factor, with a well understood mechanism.

    Any experimental support for the role of MAOIs?
    "Nicotine is the major neuroactive compound of tobacco, which has, by itself, weak reinforcing properties. It is known that levels of the enzymes monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) and MAO-B are reduced in the platelets and brains of smokers and that substances, other than nicotine, present in tobacco smoke have MAO-inhibitory activities. Here, we report that inhibition of MAO dramatically and specifically increases the motivation to self-administer nicotine in rats."

    Monoamine Oxidase Inhibition Dramatically Increases the Motivation to Self-Administer Nicotine in Rats -- Guillem et al. 25 (38): 8593 -- Journal of Neuroscience
    Do MAOIs have any significance for vaping?

    There has been some advocacy for nicotine-free cigarettes, the idea being to make them unappealing. A much better approach might be to increase the nicotine level in cigarettes so that less are smoked (given that the dangers with smoking are not the nicotine but the smoke). The best approach of course is to replace the cigarette (tobacco) with a purified nicotine. The e-cigarette does this together with the appearance of smoke (harmless fog) and works well as a smoking alternative for most people. Whether the addition of a MAOI to e-liquid to enhance it's effectiveness further would be acceptable is open to debate; it has not received much attention so far. For practical reasons (perhaps no MAOIs are suitably vapable), it might not be possible with current e-cigarette designs that use a heating element to create vapor (but would be possible with inhaler/ultrasonic designs).

    If the research continues to hold up, NRTs should also address this issue for improving their effectiveness.


    * Acetaldehyde is one of a number of other smoke constituents that might help reinforce the psychoactive effects.

    Other resources (related to part 2) :

    Monoamine oxidase inhibitor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    This is your brain on nicotine
    The Good Drug Guide : new mood-brighteners and antidepressants
    Best news online about cigarettes and tobacco.: Nicotine does not cause cigarette addiction

    Reprinted with permission of the author from Vaping Buzzz

  2. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 28, 2009
    Willamette Valley, PNW
    Perhaps I missed it here or in other related threads. Are MAOI's an additive to cigarette tobacco or a naturally occurring component of tobacco?
  3. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Have to give you a 'from memory' answer atm: at least some are naturally occuring alkaloids in tobacco. Not sure if any are added. I've looked into a few possibilities that could work as additives but not found anything suitable so far - the molecules are too big with a high or non-existant boiling point. Those in tobacco that are alkaloids might be vapable or might just get carried along on smoke particles. Nicotine is another type of alkaloid, so there may be some MAOIs (of alkaloid type at least) that may be vaporisable.

    The biochemistry is complex; there are different types of MAOI that affect, to different degrees, various messengers in the brain. That is, in psychoactive terms, they would produce different effects (some more relaxing, some more stimulating; though more complex than a single axis as in this example).

    Basically, the combination of nicorine and MAOI makes the effect more dramatic - faster and stronger - and has been likened to the effect of amphetamines, but milder.

    MAOIs are not necessarily dramatic in effect; if i'm not mistaken, catechins are a type of MAOI (have the MAO inhibition effect); these are found in tea, and have a pleasant effect that is both relaxing and stimulating.

    MAOIs can be used to treat depression. One natural source is the plant St John's Wort. Incidentally, it is not clear what the active ingredients are exactly; hypericin has been isolated but is less effective than the whole extract.

    SSRIs (Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors are similar to MAOIs) and can also used to treat depression. MAO metabolizes serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. By inhibiting this, MAOIs increase levels of all these neurotransmitters.

    While dopamine is involved in the regulation of mood, motivation and pain, serotonin has a broader range of activities, being involved in the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, movement, memory and learning. These associations are approximate descriptions of influences in complex biochemical systems.

    These nerotransmitters are MonoAmines (MAs). As part of keeping balance in the brain, there are enzymes that can metabolise (use up) these - MonoAmineOxidases (MAOs), and other chemicals that can inhibit the enzymes (the MAOIs).

    If the only 'solution' on the table was to manipulate the effects of tobacco, the sensible approach would be to increase their effect, which would reduce the amount of smoking activity (ash, tar etc. inhaled). What was actually done was creation of 'lights', though that has been realised now as mistaken.

    It is possible that the need of getting MAOIs with nicotine may vary between people, perhaps those with naturally low levels of the inhibitor, dopamine creation or other aspect of the associated biochemistry; could be more biochemical or psychological in origin, or the interaction of the two.
  4. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 28, 2009
    Willamette Valley, PNW
    Thanks for that kin
    What prompted the question is the number of threads discussing the addiction aspect of nicotine of late. Seems it has been suggested that at some point that MAOI's are intentionally added to the tobacco by BT during processing.

    If that were the case I suppose it would be another reason to done the tin foil cap!

    Thanks again
  5. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    How the tobacco is cured, blended etc can all make a difference to the MAOI level. I noticed that one of the flavorings that is sometimes added, liquorice, also has some MAOI effect.
  6. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

  7. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    Thanks a lot Kin...I have been trying to work out some issues and my thoughts are leaning towards anxiety/panic attacks from MAOI withdrawal. I have posted in another thread about my experience and am attempting to find resources to help me get my doctors (now numbering 2 internists and a cardiologist) interested in opening a discussion about my problem.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts on the subject and, if you are so inclined, my posts are here:

    I don't know what your profession is, but you seem well informed on the subject of MAOI as it is related to smoking/vaping. I am trying to follow the information both here and on your signature link. Thank you very much for the information you have provided.
  8. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    I did read that thread earlier. I can only reply in a general way.

    From all the experiences of people here, it seems that while many can make the transition to nicotine only without a problem (and giving up nicotine from there seems to be a whole lot easier, again indicating that nicotine alone is not very 'addictive'). Whereas others cannot easily adjust to nicotine alone (also smoke a bit or use snus).

    If anyone finds that they can do something without problems, all well and good; for some, sudden changes may not be a good thing, and if cutting out something or reducing it is deemed necessary, would need to be done very slowly.

    The problem is that there is no conenient, easily obtained way to get replacement, safe MAOIs (although patches do exist for depression). Some foods do contain a bit though.

    In your particular case - and indeed, in most individual cases of not feeling good - it's too difficult to detrrmine whether one is getting too much nic or not enough, need MAOIs or not. The only advice i can give is to return (slowly) to what you were doing when things were more stable, and then proceed more slowly in making changes next time.

    I'll have another look at the thread for updates, but doubt I could say more.

    ps: DVap in another threa has been thinking about this too and proposed a matrix of of high-low nic - maoi (a four quadrant grid) and that people will tend to fall into one of those four. Yes, we are all of us a little bit different (occasionally through genetics) quite a lot different.
  9. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    ps: for some complicated reasons, liquorice is not a good way to get a little extra MAOI. Passionflower infusion might be a better bet, perhaps mixed with green tea (and no milk, the calcium in milk binds the good stuff).
  10. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    I really appreciate your thoughts on this. A few others have given the same opinion and I think this is the best plan of action. I truly wish those entrusted with our health care in this country would take the time and energy to research the problem of nicotine withdrawal. At a local level, I am not sure that is happening.

    In your opinion, do cigarettes contain a sufficient of MAOIs to trigger a withdrawal upon cessation of smoking? I also am curious if snus or snuff contains MAOIs and if one would have the same withdrawal problems from them?
  11. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    The replies in that thread were helpful, yes.

    Reduced MAOIs may well be the bigger part of withdrawal symptoms, at least for some people.

    Snus would contains the natural MAOI alkaloids. But you can consider that smoking a few analogs might be better than starting something new (it's effects would be somewhat different; better stay with your body is used to).

    As an aside, high caffeine and high nic together can induce unpleasant feelings of over-stimulation.
  12. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    I am still looking for passion flower. I purchased a vitamin regimen. The mood enhancer contains:
    100 mg Passion Flower Herb (Passiflora Incarnata)
    100 mg Rhodiola rosea root extract
    75 mg Vitaberry Plus (+)
    50 mg Suntheanine L-Theanine
    Cellulose, Gelatin

    This pill contains a warning about overdosing on iron containing products.

    These haven't done a lot, so not sure how much they are helping LOL I don't take any medications...hate taking a pill every day! However, I am hoping these will give me enough boost to get me through tobacco withdrawal.
  13. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    Prior to the episode this week, I had cut my caffeine intake...I am a huge coffee drinker. I had replaced my midday coffees with hot teas. THEN, I realized not all tea is caffeine free!
  14. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    From the Good Drug guide in describing the effects of .........:

    "Sometimes it can induce paranoia, particularly in advocates of The War Against Drugs."

    I am sure it induces paranoia in the hearts and minds of the FDA!! LOL
  15. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Rhodiola rosea is another MAOI source.

    Theanine is the amino acid in tea that gives it's calming effect (so perhaps theanine is a MAOI catechin, will check that later).

    ps: don;t know anything really about .......... But there is a difference between mood altering chemicals and reality altering chemicals (perception of and real); whether ......... is reality altering or dangerous long term, i've no idea.

    Tea has less caffeine; amounts vary but about 1/2 ballpark). Again, best not to make sudden changes. Certainly best to not have caffeine in the later evening though. Sleep cycle hormones are connected into the biochemical pot.

    For mood stability / increased relaxation / stress reduction consider B-vitamins (take as a whole family together) and magnesium.
  16. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    Lest I get into trouble...LOL I am not advocating for use of pot...just thought the quote was humorous!

    Again, I want to thank you for your discussion. I hope others who are having difficulties will find this thread as I have found it and the other reference materials you have linked most helpful and hopeful!
  17. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are MAOIs in tea, that ubiquitous and well-thought 'drug'. MAOIs sound nasty because of the 'addiction' to tar and toxins from smoke, something of a bad press!

    I seem to remember that catechins have anti-oxidant properties too, like polyphenols (I think these are related groups, catechins are polythenols, or something like that). All very interesting ...
  18. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    So the teas are beneficial. Now if only that were true of coffee!! LOL Actually, I am becoming somewhat enamored with hot tea and this from a true southerner who has never drank anything but sweet, iced tea of hot coffee until I started vaping!
  19. frankie1

    frankie1 Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 7, 2009
    Oh My...should have read further:

    From The Good Drug Guide:

    " For instance, the beta-carboline alkaloids found in the world's most popular drink, coffee, are competitive and reversible inhibitors of both MAO type A and type B. "
  20. kinabaloo

    kinabaloo Vaping Master ECF Veteran

    Coffee has some beneficial effects too, including some antioxidant activity. But it is roasted so there will be nasties too created by the slow burn.

    The thing is, we cannot escape getting oxidised, and why live just a little bit longer by worrying about everything and not enjoying life?!
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