Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Smoking & Mood Shifts

The habit of smoking tobacco has become an intensely debated topic in modern society. There is a connection between smoking and many detrimental health issues, including lung cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Additionally, the issue of nicotine addiction has placed tobacco in the category of substance abuse, and the resulting effects on a smoker's moods are the main topic of concern for many anti-smoking advocates.

Mood Alteration

Tobacco has inherent qualities that affect how the brain works. The active elements that are released when tobacco smoke is inhaled cause certain neurotransmitters to activate, sending dopamine and endorphins into the central nervous system. This affect results in a sense of slight euphoria, which is often cited as being the addictive aspect of smoking. Consequently, a cycle of mood swings can be created that shifts between the "high" of smoking and the letdown when the effects of smoking disappear.


The induced release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins by inhaling tobacco smoke is a rapid process. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the signals from the brain that are triggered by nicotine can activate within 10 seconds of inhalation. This sense of euphoria is similar to the effects of narcotic drug dosages, when the body is overwhelmed by neurotransmitters. Unlike with narcotics, however, the increased sense of well-being caused by nicotine dissipates quickly, creating the need to re-administer the dosage to regain the euphoria.

Nicotine Withdrawal and Mood Swings

According to an article written by Josepha Cheong, M.D., Michael Herkov, Ph.D. and Wayne Goodman, M.D., once a person attempts to stop smoking, the physical and psychological patterns that are associated with the need for nicotine will be disrupted. This change in the addictive cycles that are the basis of a smoking habit can cause a severe dysfunction in the brain's natural methods of releasing endorphins, resulting in mood swings and, in some cases, depression. This dysfunction is often characterized by a need for physical or emotional substitutes, such as eating or becoming dependent on another person's support.


Although the process of quitting smoking affects people differently, most smokers will feel strong urges to smoke during the first month or two. According to the National Institute of Medicine, the physical symptoms that generally appear within the first few weeks include headaches, nausea, insomnia and symptoms similar to a cold, such as coughing and a sore throat. Mental symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the addiction, and may include anger, anxiety, emotional dependency and depression.

Nicotine Withdrawal Methods

Nicotine patches and gum are often used as aids to stop smoking, yet the indications of the success of these methods suggest that they may only address the physical habit and not the addiction itself. Medications that are prescribed to treat nicotine addiction are serotonin uptake inhibitors, similar to many drugs that are prescribed as anti-depressants. In some cases, these prescription drugs may actually increase the need for nicotine in the first few weeks.

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