Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Smoking Works Being An Antidepressant

Smokers identify the feeling of nicotine released in their system as pleasure. Recognizing the reasons for the body's reaction to tobacco gives smokers a better idea why they feel the way they do about cigarettes, or other tobacco products. It also helps those looking to quit understand the dynamics behind the depression of quitting.


The tobacco plant naturally produces the chemical, nicotine. It is the plant's natural defense against insects. By coincidence, nicotine also mimics many neurochemical "keys" in the human brain. One of these chemicals is dopamine, the body's response to pleasurable activities. As pleasurable as it feels to smoke, the release of dopamine and the many other chemical responses to nicotine are the brain's way of defending itself against the toxic poison.

Time Frame

It takes eight seconds for the nicotine inhaled during smoking to reach the brain and trigger a release of dopamine. It is the "ah" factor smokers easily recognize. No more than 30 minutes after finishing a cigarette, nicotine diminishes to the point of withdrawal triggering an anxiety attack that makes a smoker crave another cigarette. Another cigarette relieves the anxiety created by nicotine withdrawal. This gives the smoker the impression that smoking relieves anxiety when it actually creates the anxiety in the first place.


In spite of the quick release of dopamine into the blood stream and the instant feeling of gratification, smoking may actually increase depression. The continual highs and lows brought on by dopamine release and the prevention of the reuptake of the chemical leave the body unable to regulate its own pleasure release.

People who begin smoking in their teens may actually increase the likelihood of adult depression according to a new Florida State University Study. The same study goes even further in stating that it only takes a brief encounter with smoking to change the outlook and possible depressive tendencies in teen smokers.

Quitting smoking is even harder for those suffering from depression as the removal of nicotine from the system reverses the anti-depressant effect, causing an even deeper depression.


Medications are available to combat the depression caused by quitting smoking. Welbutrin and Chantix are two commonly prescribed drugs to help quit smoking. Chantix works by blocking the brain's receptors that release dopamine. Welbutrin is actually an anti-depressant that makes it possible for smokers to ride out the withdrawals from nicotine. For some, it may be necessary to continue anti-depressant drugs beyond the quitting period. Depression that smoking masks requires control in the absence of tobacco products.


Weaning yourself off nicotine using medication, or not, may increase thoughts of suicide or heighten depression. If you know of a history of depression, or notice an increase in that type of attitude, talk to your doctor immediately. Stop taking any medications until your physician examines your situation. In some cases, it is just a matter of readjusting doses, or prescribing other anti-depressants.

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