Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another Effect of Nicotine on the Brain

Nicotine is a powerful drug that enters enters the brain and attaches to receptors that release dopamine, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. So when a smoker says that they enjoy smoking, what they are really saying is they enjoy the effect that nicotine has on their brain. One of the other things that nicotine does, is that it goes to the part of the brain that enhances external events, which means that when you pair smoking a cigarette with drinking a cup of coffee, answering the phone, driving a car or anything else, the release of dopamine makes each of these events more enjoyable than doing it without smoking. This is how "habit" cigarettes are created. so when a smoker quits, having that morning cup of coffee just doesn't seem as enjoyable, the effect that nicotine has on the brain is what is missing. This also explains why we smoke when stressed, anxious or angry, because the effect of dopamine makes us feel a little bit better. A traditional way of looking at addiction is that the substance needs to cause intoxication or euphoria, like taking a drink of alcohol or a snort of cocaine but with nicotine, the effect is much more subtle but it is still a mechanism that is used to alter our emotional state, not to the degree of other addictive substances but this is probably a reason of why so many people underestimate the power that nicotine has over a smokers brain.

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