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Nicotine and the Brain

May 8th, 2007 · No Comments

When tobacco is smoked, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly moves into the bloodstream and then reaches the brain within 8 seconds! Nicotine also acts directly on the heart to change heart rate and blood pressure and also on the nerves that control respiration to change breathing patterns.

Nicotine and the Brain

Nicotine activates areas of the brain that are involved in producing pleasurable feelings. Scientists discovered that nicotine raises the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the parts of the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and reward. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter that is involved in addictions to other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Researchers now believe that this change in dopamine may play a key role in all addictions. This may help explain why it is so hard for people to stop smoking.

Nicotine and Addiction

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. If someone uses nicotine again and again, such as by smoking cigarettes (or cigars or chewing tobacco), his or her body develops a tolerance for it. When someone develops tolerance, he or she needs more drug to get the same effect. Eventually, a person can become addicted. Once a person becomes addicted, it is extremely difficult to quit. People who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time quitting, and fewer than 1 in 10 people who try to quit smoking succeed.

When nicotine addicts stop smoking they may suffer from restlessness, hunger, depression, headaches, and other uncomfortable feelings. These are called “withdrawal symptoms” because they happen when nicotine is withdrawn from the body.

Withdrawal may be bad, but long-term smoking can be much worse. It dulls your senses of smell and taste, reduces your stamina, and wrinkles your skin. More dangerously, long-term smoking can lead to fatal heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, and cancer.

Tobacco use causes far more illnesses and death than all other addicting drugs combined. One out every six deaths in the United States is a result of smoking.

You may be surprised to learn that in high concentrations, nicotine is deadly. In fact, one drop of purified nicotine on the tongue will kill a person. It’s so lethal that it has been used as a pesticide for centuries.

The best advice is just to not start smoking.

 How to quit smoking: Nicotine-Cessation-Supplements

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Tags: Smoking - Nicotine Addiction

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