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How Nicotine Affects The Brain

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Nicotine And The Brain

Nicotine Affects the Brain. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) Can Help You Quit Smoking.

Exposure to nicotine changes the way your brain functions.

Let’s imagine your brain as a computer. Like a computer, your brain processes, stores and uses information. In a computer, information travels in the form of electricity moving through wires information transfer is a binary process, with switches being either on or off. In your brain, neurons are the cells that transfer and integrate information. Each neuron receives input from thousands of other neurons throughout the brain, processes that information and makes any necessary adjustments before communicating the message throughout the body. While signals are conducted through individual neurons as electric current, it’s a group of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that actually relay those messages between neurons and other cells .

Each neurotransmitter has its own specific family of receptors. Nicotine happens to imitate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and binds to those receptors . However, unlike acetylcholine, nicotine is not regulated by your body. While neurons typically release small amounts of acetylcholine in a regulated manner, nicotine activates cholinergic neurons in many different regions throughout your brain simultaneously.

Nicotine And The Brain: The Role Of Genetics

Other research on nicotine and the brain found that individuals have greater resistance to nicotine addiction if they have a genetic variant that decreases the function of the enzyme CYP2A6. The decrease in CYP2A6 slows the breakdown of nicotine and protects individuals against nicotine addiction. Understanding the role of this enzyme in nicotine addiction gives a new target for developing more effective medications to help people quit smoking. Medications might be developed that can inhibit the function of CYP2A6, thus providing a new approach to preventing and treating nicotine addiction.

How You Become Addicted

The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive. It makes your brain release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a feel good chemical that:

  • makes you feel happy
  • gives you more energy

But this effect doesnt last long.

As the nicotine levels in your body fade, your brain craves more dopamine. The longer you have been smoking, the more dopamine you need to feel good. You become dependent on nicotine.

Once you are dependent on nicotine, without it you will have withdrawal symptoms. You may find it difficult to concentrate or feel nervous, restless, irritable or anxious.

These two things nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal make you want to smoke more. You become addicted to tobacco.

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Smoking Increases The Risk Of Stroke

If you smoke say, 20 cigarettes a day, you are 6 times more likely to have a stroke than a non-smoker. Tobacco contains over 7,000 harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, and carbon monoxide. These toxic chemicals get transferred from the lungs to the blood. They make platelets more likely to stick together. Platelets help in clotting the blood in case of blood loss, but if the platelets stick together, it increases the chance of clot-forming.

Smokers are at a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis where arteries become hardened and narrow. It restricts smooth blood flow making the formation of blood clots more likely. If a clot forms in an artery leading to the brain, it can block the blood supply to a part of the brain resulting in a stroke. This is known as ischaemic stroke. Smoking is said to double the risk of having an ischaemic stroke. If a person quits smoking, within 5 years, his/her risk of stroke will start decreasing to that of a non-smoker.

How Does Smoking Affect Your Brain

How Does Smoking Affect Your Brain?

Smoking effects on the brain?Have you ever thought of that? Have you ever wondered how smoking affects yourbrain? Well, we all know that tobacco is a major cause of preventable death inthe United States and the world at large. A study by the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention has shown that at least 500,000 Americansdie prematurely yearly due to smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.

Also, smoking increases your risk for stroke, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and a host of health conditions. It also impacts negatively on your brain. In this article, we will examine the effects of smoking on the brain and what you stand to gain from quitting smoking.



Many people are aware of theeffects of nicotine on the heart and the lungs, but what many people do notunderstand is the effect that nicotine has on the brain.

According to Lori A.Russell-Chapin, Ph.D. professor at Online Masters of Counseling Program ofthe Bradleys University, nicotine mimics the action of several neurotransmitters.Because the shape of nicotine is similar to that of acetylcholine, signalingincreases in the brain.

Also, nicotine activates signalsof dopamine, thus creating a sensation of pleasure.

Over time, the brain starts tocompensate for the increased signaling activity by cutting down on the numberof receptors. The result is nicotine tolerance, and so youll eventually needmore nicotine.

A decline in cognitive function

In conclusion

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Healing The Altered Brains Of Smokers

The likelihood of a cigarette smoker successfully quitting on any given attempt is low, given uncomfortable, negative affective withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are linked, at least in part, with reduced activity in the brains reward processing system, so scientists want to better understand activity in these areas of the brain before and after receiving available smoking cessation medications.

In this study, researchers gave two commonly used smoking cessation medications or placebo to nonsmokers and smokers . The researchers then asked the participants to play a game in which they received positive or negative feedback based on their performance. At the same time, the researchers measured participants brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging . This allowed scientists to look at the brains habenula and striatum, two interconnected brain regions believed to be linked to reward processing. Previous research using this task showed that positive feedback activated the striatum, whereas negative feedback activated the habenula.

The research was conducted by scientists at NIDAs Intramural Research Program and Florida International University with additional funding support from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

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Psychological And Physical Dependence

Long-term nicotine use affects a broad range of genes associated with neurotransmission, signal transduction, and synaptic architecture. The most well-known hereditary influence related to nicotine dependence is a mutation at rs16969968 in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptorCHRNA5, resulting in an amino acid alteration from aspartic acid to asparagine. The single-nucleotide polymorphisms rs6474413 and rs10958726 in CHRNB3 are highly correlated with nicotine dependence. Many other known variants within the CHRNB3âCHRNA6 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are also correlated with nicotine dependence in certain ethnic groups. There is a relationship between CHRNA5CHRNA3CHRNB4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and complete smoking cessation. Increasing evidence indicates that the genetic variant CHRNA5 predicts the response to smoking cessation medicine. The ability to quitting smoking is affected by genetic factors, including genetically based differences in the way nicotine is metabolized. In the CYP450 system there are 173 genetic variants, which impacts how quickly nicotine is metabolizes by each individual. The speed of metabolism impacts the regularity and quantity of nicotine used. For instance, in people who metabolize nicotine gradually their central nervous system effects of nicotine lasts longer, increasing their probability of dependence, but also increasing ability with quitting smoking.

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How Nicotine Addiction Works

Using tobacco is more than just a series of “bad habits.” It’s a physical addiction. So, let’s talk about addiction in a real way.

You may not realize how nicotine has actually hijacked your brain, making quitting harder. You may not want to use medication to quit or you may have tried them before and didn’t think they worked. You may think quitting is something you should do on your own, just with willpower.

Using medication can make quitting more comfortable and less stressful. And there’s no shame in using it. Think of it like taping up a blister while you’re out on a hike. It will help you enjoy the journey and get where you want to go.

Two Different Brain Regions Are Linked With Nicotine Addiction Severity And Nicotine Withdrawal

Nicotine in the Brain

This study found that:

  • Activity in the striatum of people who smoke changed less in response to positive feedback/reward than in nonsmokers this effect was more pronounced with greater addiction severity.
  • Activity of a brain region called the habenula was linked to nicotine withdrawal/craving and was reduced by nicotine administration in people who smoke.
  • Current smoking cessation treatments affect the activity of the habenula but not the striatum.

Despite smokings well-known devastating effects on health, quitting is difficult for most people who smoke, primarily because of nicotines highly addictive properties. A recent NIDA-sponsored study showed that two separate brain processes are linked to nicotine addiction severity and nicotine withdrawal, respectively, which may account for some of the difficulties in stopping smoking. The findings may help researchers devise new ways to help more people quit smoking.

The investigators focused on the activity of two brain areas implicated in addictionthe striatum and the habenula. The striatum is a key component of the brain circuits promoting addiction . The habenula may contribute to negative reinforcement mechanisms that perpetuate nicotine use. It is activated by negative outcomes and the lack of rewards, and it acts like a brake on the reward processing system.

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Increased Glutamate Calcium In The Brain

Increases in the neurotransmitter glutamate and calcium are often associated with neurotoxic effects in the brain as a result of the neurons being overly excited and continuing to fire to the point of actually damaging the system. If not modulated, this can result in significant damage throughout the central nervous system.

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Meanwhile, the brains of teens who smoke or vape may create more receptors to handle the flood of nicotine they have come to expect. As the number of receptors increases, teens will need more nicotine to get the same high. That makes nicotine users seek hit after hit. In teens, this can provoke side effects. For instance, it can make it hard for them to stay focused. It might also trigger bouts of depression or anxiety, research suggests.

Some of the negative effects of nicotine on the young brain will fade with time if exposure ends. Others, however, may persist. For instance, brain scientists at VU University Amsterdam found that exposing adolescent rats to nicotine increased their impulsive behavior. It made them a bit more reckless than usual. It also made it harder for them to focus their attention even later, as adults.

No one is sure that the same thing happens in humans, but thats the concern. Exposing the developing adolescent brain to nicotine could lead to a high risk of lifelong addiction, says Garry Sigman. He heads adolescent medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill.

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Effectsof Smoking On The Brain And Nervous System

Tobacco can be obtained byinhaling it or chewing it, but when inhaled, the mixture of nicotine with smalltar particles travels to the lungs, and it is quickly absorbed there, then thenicotine is transferred to the bloodstream, and it soon reaches the brainwithin eight seconds after it is inhaled.

In the case of obtainingtobacco by chewing it It takes three to five minutes for nicotine to reach thecentral nervous system.

Nicotine has a cleareffect on both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system,depending on the personâs mood. The dose of nicotine taken causes smoking tostimulate or relax these two systems.

Smoking may increase yourrisk of developing dementia and stroke, and it may also cause personalitychanges.

If you smoke, you mayexperience faster cognitive decline than non-smokers.

The longer you smoke, thehigher your risk of greater loss of age-related brain volume.

Speaking of the rapideffect of nicotine, it can be explained as follows:

  • Increased blood pressureor hypertension.

Nicotine Side Effects On Your Brain

How Does Nicotine Affect the Brain?  YogaEsoteric

Cigarettes are one of the fastest ways to get nicotine into your system. After an inhale, tar with nicotine deposits travels to lungs where it latches on and gets absorbed by the organism. It takes up to twenty seconds for nicotine to travel to the brain. Other delivery methods, such as chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarette systems are slower, but not by much.

When nicotine reaches the brain it attaches to neural receptors usually reserved for acetylcholine. This begins a series of chain reactions in the body. First, it starts to stimulate the adrenal glands which start releasing large amounts of adrenaline into the system. This flight or fight hormone elevates the heart rate and breathing. As the heart rate goes up so does the blood pressure and this means that nicotine is also partly to blame for numerous vascular diseases.

That rush of adrenaline also signals the body to dump sugars into the system under normal circumstances that sugar would be useful for either the fight or the flight response. In this case, it stays in the bloodstream, accumulating and since nicotine suppresses insulin release this means that smokers regularly have elevated blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is one of the reasons why smokers tend not to feel hungry after a cigarette, regardless of how long it was since their last meal.

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What Are The Stages Leading To Nicotine Addiction

When a person uses a drug with rewarding properties , they are at risk for addiction. Although they dont become addicted immediately, there are 2 stages that usually precede addictionthese include tolerance and dependence. Lets review the sequence in the context of smoking cigarettes .

Stage 1: Tolerance

After smoking only a few cigarettes, nicotine loses its effectiveness at stimulating the reward pathway. Scientists have shown that the nicotinic receptors can lose their sensitivity to nicotine. Now, the person must smoke more cigarettes because more nicotine is necessary to cause the same effect. This smoker has become tolerant to nicotine, which usually happens first, even before dependence sets in.

Stage 2: Dependence

As the smoker continues to smoke, the smoker becomes dependent on nicotine. Dependence means that the smoker requires nicotine just to function normally. So, if a dependent smoker were to stop smoking, he/she will experience withdrawal. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can range from mild to severe and include anxiousness, inability to sleep, and depressed mood. Withdrawal can begin within as little as a few hours after the last cigarette. Without thinking about it, people smoke enough cigarettes or use enough tobacco products each day to keep the levels of nicotine in their brain at a relatively constant level and to feel the effects all day long.

Stage 3: Addiction

The most obvious symptoms include:

The Dangers Of Teen Smoking

During adolescence, the brain undergoes extensive developmental changes. However, different brain regions develop at different speeds and at different times.

For instance, brain regions involved in processing emotions undergo extensive developmental changes at puberty. Brain regions involved in rational thought, decision-making and impulse control , on the other hand, continue to develop at a slower pace throughout adolescence and well into adulthood. Were you a moody teenager who couldnt seem to control their impulses and actions? Now you know why Strong emotional processes but underdeveloped cognitive processes may lead to impulsivity and susceptibility to peer pressure behaviors that are commonly associated with smoking.

Adolescents progress faster to nicotine dependence than adults, find nicotine more rewarding, underestimate the risks of smoking, and are more influenced by smoking behavior in their social milieu. Goriounova and Mansvelder, 2012.

While impulsivity, social interactions and easy access to cigarettes may motivate teens to start smoking, other factors determine whether this initial behavior will become a habit.

Lastly, our genes may have a modest influence on our nicotine sensitivity and dependence.

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Nicotine Affects The Brain Pleasure Centers

Another study found how nicotine affects the brain. Dramatic changes in the brain’s pleasure circuits were spotted during withdrawal from chronic tobacco use. These changes are comparable in magnitude and duration to similar changes observed during withdrawal from other abused drugs such as cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and alcohol. Scientists found significant decreases in the sensitivity of the brains of laboratory rats to pleasurable stimulation after nicotine administration was abruptly stopped. These changes lasted several days and may correspond to the anxiety and depression experienced by humans for several days after quitting smoking “cold turkey.” The results of this research may help in the development of better treatments for the nicotine withdrawal symptoms that may interfere with individuals’ attempts to quit.

Nicotine Side Effects On All Systems In The Body

2-Minute Neuroscience: Nicotine

Nicotine has adverse effects on every bodily system. Some of these develop over time but some are present with every dose of nicotine you take.

Nicotine Effects: Central Nervous System

  • Dyspepsia
  • Cancer

Mentioned health effects can all be attributed to nicotine but are greatly exacerbated by other compounds usually found in tobacco products, such as tar, carbon monoxide, toluene, or any of the other 4,000 substances regularly found in cigarettes.

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Smoking And Increased Health Risks

Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.1

  • Estimates show smoking increases the risk:
  • For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times1,6
  • For stroke by 2 to 4 times1
  • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times1
  • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times1
  • Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.1
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