Kids these days will never know the feeling of that first puff of a stolen cigarette from mom or dad – the headrush, the heat in your lungs, the way the smoke coats your entire mouth, and how it tastes burnt but slightly sweet. And that’s if your parents even bothered with filters.
Nowadays, preteens and adolescents gain their street cred by stealing their older sibling’s JUUL or vape pen. The authenticity might be lost, but the nic buzz is still there.
But if you’re chasing that same buzz from your first ever puff, you might be wondering, where did it go?
The first few times you smoked, you felt dizzy but focused, alert but lightheaded – now there’s nothing. Just an echo of your lost innocence that manifests as a soothing kind of calm, reminiscent of your favorite hoodie on a rainy day.
Yet, you’re still taking in nicotine, whether you’re old school with your cigarette or environmentally friendly with your vape. So why is the buzz gone?
Essentially, your body builds up a tolerance to nicotine intake over time. You need to take a break from nicotine to get the same effect as the first time.
The longer you’ve been using it, the longer the break will have to be.
Let’s talk more about the science behind nicotine use – how nicotine works in different products, how nicotine affects our bodies, and how to get that buzz back.
Not All Nicotine is Created Equal
First off, it’s important to mention that not all nicotine products will elicit that woozy, uplifting feeling, regardless of your tolerance levels.
On its own, nicotine imparts that buzz, but some formulas compromise nicotine’s potency, which undercuts its effect on your body – the varying nicotine products available are composed of different ingredients.
For example, an e-cigarette, tobacco cigarette, and chewing tobacco all have different amounts of nicotine present, and products that mix tobacco with other herbs will have slightly reduced effects.
Affectionately called a “nicotine buzz,” the term refers to your body’s initial reaction to this pleasure-causing chemical and is the first sign of this drug’s addictive potential.
Whatever your chosen method for consumption might be, whether it’s vapor or cigarette smoke, nicotine takes only a few seconds to reach your brain once consumed.
Our lungs deliver nicotine effectively, causing that immediate jolt of pleasurable sensations.
Once it reaches your brain, nicotine attaches itself to things called acetylcholine receptors which control the release of the brain’s feel-good chemical, dopamine.
In addition, nicotine stimulates other chemicals in the brain, such as epinephrine and serotonin.
After a puff or two, you start to feel pleasurable effects – the nicotine begins to make you feel giddy, calm, dizzy, or intensely focused.
Unfortunately, once you’ve developed physical dependence and your body is deprived of nicotine, the comedown comes with a list of side effects. The withdrawal symptoms include sudden loss of appetite and less awareness of tastes and smells, or you may feel tired and cold.
How Long Does a Nicotine Buzz Last?
Blink, and it’s over.
For most smokers who aren’t fresh lungs but have still dialed back enough to get buzzed, the sensation will last a few seconds. The same goes for occasional smokers.
If you’ve never smoked before or if you’ve gone in pretty heavy, the elation and dizziness might last as long as 20-30 minutes.
However, things like your age, weight, gender, etc., can impact the timing as well.
Bring Back the Buzz
The bad news is, if you use nicotine habitually, you might miss how a nicotine buzz feels – you remember, it’s that rush of pleasantness you used to get that made your whole body sink into that one puff.
But just like any drug, if you smoke regularly, your body will gradually build up a tolerance.
The receptors in your brain that nicotine binds to have only so many seats for immediate effects. Once those seats are full, more nicotine in the house just overcrowds things and can leave you feeling sick.
The answer to bringing back the buzz is not more nicotine; it’s less.
If you’re craving that serious buzz from back in the day, the only remedy is to give your body a chance to empty the seats. Taking a “tolerance break” can provide your brain’s receptors time to reset themselves.
When you reintroduce nicotine into your system, you’ll feel its effects more strongly.
Why Do I Sleep Better After a Nicotine Buzz?
The link between sleep and nicotine buzz is an interesting one. Nicotine impacts your nervous system via your brain and has a sedative effect.
It’s why you feel calmer or more relaxed after a cigarette. It’s also why smoking can help relieve stress and anxiety.
Ultimately, it’s fair to argue that smoking can also help you achieve a more restful night of sleep.
However, this is not always the case. Overusing nicotine for this purpose can be counterproductive.
Chain-smoking to get to sleep can disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle. Not to mention, you might also make yourself sick.
Nicotine Buzz is Not the Same as an Overdose
Like a coffee overdose, an increased amount of nicotine can make you feel sick, but it’s not fatal. When the buzz disappears, you might be tempted to get it back right away.
Early signs of nicotine poisoning can include nausea, anxiety, ear ringing, dizziness, sweating, choking, elevated heart rate, or headache. However, you’re unlikely to suffer from a nicotine overdose chain-smoking outside the bar, so don’t panic.
In fact, true nicotine poisoning in adults is rare and not likely caused by inhalation (i.e., smoking tobacco or inhaling nicotine vapor). More likely, you smoked a little too much, too fast, and you’re feeling “nic sick.”
There’s a reason why that first cigarette in the morning tastes so sweet or why when you haven’t touched it all day, that first pull on your vape gives you a sudden headrush.
Even after just a few hours of deprivation, once that nicotine enters your body, your brain receptors become more responsive to its effects. That pleasant feeling is often referred to as a “nicotine buzz.”
New nicotine users are prone to feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness when they first introduce their bodies to the drug. This is because they haven’t yet built up a tolerance.
Most experienced nicotine users are less prone to this feeling as they frequently smoke throughout the day. If you want that nicotine buzz back, the best thing is to quit smoking for a while and give your body a tolerance break.
Allowing your body a chance to detox means rebuilding your tolerance when you start again. Even just taking a longer break between sessions could increase the effects of nicotine.