But, ever wondered why we need it? Before even beginning with the habit of smoking, it did not seem necessary until one inculcated it as a part of one’s routine. Even at work, we load up on nicotine while trundling through a normal office day. But does it work? Have we ever wondered what pulls us towards smoking?
The way in which nicotine reacts with our brain cells.
The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells. They communicate by releasing chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.
Caffeine, nicotine, cocaine and other psychoactive drugs, alter the behaviour by countering the activity in the human brain of naturally occurring chemicals, adenosine for caffeine, and acetylcholine for nicotine.
These chemicals normally depress neuron firing in many areas of the brain. They apparently do this by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters. Like many other agents that affect neuron firing, they must first bind to specific receptors on neuronal membranes.
Wait for the catch!!
The nicotine molecule is structurally similar to acetylcholine and hence is able to bind to its receptors, which prevents acetylcholine from attaching and allows the neurons to fire more readily than they otherwise would.
One would feel more charged up, coherent when one smokes. The brain is artificially induced to fire more neurotransmitters, hence one is able to make decisions, and think clearly. One is more focused, the lassitude is staved off.
How does it become a habit?
We have neural pathways, they connect relatively distant areas of the brain or nervous system, each pathway is associated with a particular action or behaviour.
Every time we think, feel or do something, such as smoking, we strengthen this pathway. Habits are well-travelled pathways- our brain finds these things easy to do.
With repeated and proper attention to the desired change, we can alter the pathways.
Now there is a reward pathway that encourages us to seek out things for which we recorded your positive feelings - a good cake.
So each time you seek that activity of smoking again, the reward pathway gets activated and fills your brain with dopamine. We feel good and we seek to repeat the activity. Remember, very few of our feelings are objective; we feel what our brain asks us to feel. If one has decided to not consume non-vegetarian food, he or she will not enjoy the tastiest non-veg meal. In this way, one is creating and strengthening the pathways.
It’s like: Eat good -> Dopamine Reward -> Feed to memory -> Seek it again.
For an addict: Substance consumed -> Dopamine -> Memory remembers rapid sense of satisfaction -> Seeks more.
The brain, the centre for mood and conscious thoughts, makes thinking and feeling possible. It controls the voluntary movements and regulates digestion and breathing. So, the brain controls the conscious thoughts as well as the unconscious body processes. The brain is connected to the heart and the lungs through arteries. These arteries supply oxygen and other chemicals to the brain. So, when a person smokes a cigarette, the chemicals inhaled are sent to the brain.
That's the truth about addiction
It becomes a constant need to find and use the drug to stop feeling the way one feels when one isn't on the drug. Currently, there are a number of products such as nicotine gum, quit smoking aids, etc. that help in the cessation of this urge.