Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Smoking Gives Your Mind

The human brain controls thinking, emotional feelings, mood, conscious thoughts and unconscious body processes such as breathing and food digestion. Tobacco contains a powerful drug identified as nicotine. When an individual smokes a cigarette, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly moves into the bloodstream, where it passes throughout the brain. Because the ingredients in cigarettes affect everything from the internal functioning of organs to the effectiveness of the body's immune system, the consequences of this addictive habit are destructive and widespread.


Addiction can be defined as the compulsive need and use of a habit-forming substance usually resulting in negative consequences. Individuals who smoke often say that cigarettes help them to relax, calm their nerves and satisfy cravings. However, over time, a smoker builds up a tolerance level so that more and more nicotine is needed to produce and maintain a normal functioning level. Nicotine has been proven to be one of the most addictive substances known. On May 17, 1988, then-Surgeon General C. Edward Koop issued a 618-page report on addictions in which he said cigarettes are as addictive as heroin and cocaine.


Smoking triggers the release of addictive "feel-good" brain chemicals. This helps to explain why smokers have a difficult time quitting despite health warnings. Smoking cigarettes stimulates the brain's production of chemicals known as opioids, which are instrumental in soothing pain, increasing positive emotions and creating a sense of entitlement. Both morphine and heroin trigger this same chemical reaction.

Physical Effects

Nicotine stimulates feelings of satisfaction, impacting the same contentment areas of the brain as cocaine and heroin. "Psychology Today" reports that nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds after smoke has been inhaled and remains active for 20 to 40 minutes. An individual who smokes about 30 cigarettes a day gets approximately 300 hits of nicotine during a one-day period.

Because nicotine is so fast-acting, when it enters the bloodstream, the adrenal glands are immediately stimulated to release adrenaline. This, in turn, thickens and clots the blood and increases blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. Smoking narrows blood vessels and arteries within the brain as well as in the rest of the body, increasing the probability of a stroke. Because glucose is released into the blood while nicotine suppresses insulin output from the pancreas, smokers also have chronically elevated blood sugar levels.

Smoking changes the brain's chemistry, which affects the smoker's mood, compromises the ability to think, has harmful effects on memory and problem solving and lowers the smoker's IQ.

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