As a bit of a followup to the poll we ran on whether or not cigarettes make you high, I offer context and my thoughts. As of this writing, btw, the votes are running 44% “Yes”, 47% “No”, the balance “other” with a fair bit of commentary to the effect that “high” is not exactly the right description for nicotine.
For the background, we might as well start with the comment from SurgPA:

This started with an email from PalMD asking why doctors react much more negatively to narcotics abusers than alcohol or nicotine abusers. I hypothesized that most people view acute use of the various drugs differently. Specifically I suspected that most doctors’ gut reactions when seeing someone light a cigarette are qualitatively (and vastly) different from seeing someone shoot heroin (or snort crushed oxycontin). In short that we don’t see the act of smoking as an acute intoxication by a neuroactive substance, even if we understand it intellectually.

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Thanks to a commenter for the link to this highly important public service message on drugs of abuse.

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ResearchBlogging.orgA recent paper set out to examine automobile driving skills in people who had previously used Ecstasy (presumptively 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; MDMA) but were currently not using. Dastrup and colleagues (2010) used a driving simulator task in which the job was to maintain a set distance behind a lead vehicle (LV) displayed on the computer screen. The job was to stay abut two car lengths (given as 18 meters) behind the LV while accelerating to 55mph. My Google U conversion calculation makes 55 mph out to be about 25 meters / sec. I would therefore estimate the closing time between the cars as about 0.4-0.5 seconds, depending on car length and how much space you assume between these lengths. Thereafter the LV changed speed as depicted in the Figure 2 from the paper.
Dastrup10-fig2.pngThe horizontal line sits at the 55 mph point and you can see that the speed of the LV varies up to about 59 mph and down to about 51 mph with the maximum change taking place over about 18-20 seconds. .

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