Smoking and Nicotine Addiction
May 13, 2013
Dr. Dee Strbiak, PsyD., LPC, CAC III
Smoking is a habit forming and in many instances very hard to stop once started. As the world around grows and increases in knowledge it is becoming more evident that smoking is dangerous not just to the smoker, but the people around them as well. There are many reasons that one may start the habit of smoking but are unaware of just how much the body becomes dependent on it in regard to feeling normal. Like any other habit forming drug the body and mind see the nicotine in cigarettes as a need rather than a want.
Understanding the Addiction
To understand addiction one must first understand the brains primary motivation neurotransmitter, dopamine. The dopamine pathways that make up the brain serve as a built-in- teacher or memory (Polito, 2012). This certain function triggers a feeling of desire or sensation when wanting the required action to takes place (Polito, 2012). In a sense the dopamine pathways are testing the body to see if it will give into the urges. Once an individual loses control and gives into the urge the dopamine is stimulated, and the desire is satisfied. According to Polito (2012) “The brain records how wanting was satisfied in the most durable, high-definition memory the mind may be capable of generating. It does so by hard-wiring dopamine pathway neuro-transmissions into our conscious memory banks (the prefrontal cortex - the lobe above our eyes), where each is linked to the event that satisfied dopamine pathway wanting, hunger and yearning” (pg. 1). With this known information there are those individuals who are referred to as “chippers” (Polito, 2012, pg. 1). This means that a person in this situation is a social smoker and the brain does not maintain the desires or craving for nicotine. The more often the habit is repeated, the more controlling the dopamine becomes.
Nicotine provides much heightened receptor activity and activates cholinergic neurons in different areas of brain (Meeker-O'Connell, 2001). This in return stimulates an increase in the release of acetylcholine, stimulation of cholinergic neurons, and the release of glutamatean (Meeker-O'Connell, 2001). The acetylcholine neurotransmitter is responsible for the brain’s role of learning and memory. The function of energy level, heart rate, and breathing is controlled by this certain neurotransmitter. Cholinergic neurons encourage the release of dopamine in the “reward pathways” of the brain and these particular pathways reinforce survival behavior (Meeker-O'Connell, 2001). The neurons formed around this part of the brain act as an encourager to continue this behavior because they release a feeling of satisfaction through the body. Glutamatean involves connecting sets of neurons together to enhance memory and create strong connections to the nicotine. When smoking memory is created or embedded in the brain as providing a good feeling. This makes a person desire to smoke more irresistible based on the feeling he or she receives from it.
The Results of Nicotine Use
The nicotine found in cigarettes acts both as a stimulant and depressant when concerning brain function. Nicotine is meant to increase an individual’s heart rate and closely resembles that of a caffeine effect. The satisfaction from the nicotine provides the body with a burst of energy and a feeling of good. On the other hand depression and fatigue set in when an individual does not keep up with the nicotine demand that the body has become addicted to. The body craves the nicotine and must have it to functioning properly. Mineur and Picciotto (2010) state that “Estimates of the prevalence of nicotine dependence in patients with major depression range from 50% to 60%, compared with ∼25% in the general population” (pg.1). Some time ago Janowsky and colleagues came up with a hypothesis theory that linked...
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