nicotine intoxication and hallucinations
- The term nicotine comes from the modern Latin name herba nicotiana (herb of the tobacco plant), which in turn derives from Jean Nicot (15301600), the name of a French diplomat stationed in Portugal who advocated the use of tobacco for therapeutic purposes shortly after its introduction in the Western world. The substance nicotine, or C10H14N2, is an alkaloid of the pyridine group obtained from the dried leaves of tobacco plants such as Nicotiana tabacum and N. rustica. Nicotine acts as an agonist of the nicotinic receptors in the peripheral and central nervous system. It is capable of facilitating the release of neuro-transmitters such as serotonin, acetylcholine, and adrenaline. In its pure form, nicotine is one of the most lethal substances known to Man. The lethal dose in adults is considered to lie between 30 and 60 mg (or 0.5-1.0 mg/kg body weight). Death may occur within 5 min after ingestion of such dosages, usually due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles and/or a central respiratory depression. In the Western world, tobacco products are commonly ingested in relatively small amounts, either through inhalation or by chewing them. These amounts rarely result in hallucinatory effects. However, substantially larger amounts, such as those taken by Eurasian and American shamans, may give rise to * delirious states and extensive hallucinatory experiences. As the American anthropologist Johannes Wilbert asserts, "South American shamans ingest tobacco products via almost all humanly possible routs of administration: gastrointestinal, respiratory and percutaneous. They chew tobacco, drink tobacco juice and syrup, lick tobacco paste, apply tobacco enemas, snuff rapé and smoke. In addition, they administer tobacco products topically to the skin and to the eye. However, even more impressive than this diversity of administrative procedures, are the large amounts of tobacco ingested by the shaman in one sitting. For example, shamanic practitioners in the Guianas take cigars, tobacco juice, tobacco powder and cupfuls of tobacco pulp in the course of a single initiatory ritual." The initiatory states of * ecstasy that a tobacco shaman must undergo as a novice, and later as a practitioner, have been characterized as "hallucinatory eschatological scenarios on a cosmic scale". However, many lacunae remain as to the exact effects of acute nicotine intoxication. A person intentionally employing nicotine for the purpose of exploring the psyche may be called a * psychonaut.ReferencesWilbert, J. (1991). Does pharmacology corroborate the nicotine therapy and practices of South American shamanism? Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 32, 179-186.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.
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