Nicotine acts on nicotinic cholinergic receptors in autonomic ganglia and at the neuromuscular junction as well as within the CNS. In low doses it is excitatory but in higher doses it inhibits these receptors. It also increases central nervous system 5HT and dopamine release, particularly in the striatum and nucleus accumbens.
Its alerting effects are probably due to stimulation of cholinergic neurones in the basal forebrain, but in high doses it can also activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
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