The problem with cigarettes is that they are so tough to give up. The addictive properties of cigarettes have been widely blamed for an unimaginable number of deaths. Cigarettes are a tough habit to kick, but why are they so addictive?
Nicotine is a naturally occurring toxin found in tobacco plants. In the plant, nicotine is used to repel insects and other predators. This toxin is deadlier than arsenic. Unfortunately, it is also remarkably similar to a neurotransmitter found in the human brain. Acetylcholine controls the flow of approximately 200 of the neuro-chemicals in the brain. One of these tremendously powerful neuro-chemicals is called Dopamine. Dopamine is a sort of reward chemical. It helps us to feel satisfied when we have eaten a delicious meal. It helps us to feel good about a job well done. It also helps us to stay motivated to finish a project. Dopamine causes us to seek fulfillment in almost every aspect of our lives. This process of wanting and fulfilling is called a Dopamine pathway.
The human brain keeps a record of how each Dopamine pathway has been fulfilled. Your brain creates memories for almost every experience that you acquire. Some memories are very strong and some are quickly over-written. The memories associated with fulfilling a need or want, the Dopamine pathway memories, are extremely strong. They are some of the most long-lasting of all memories throughout your life. This is both good and bad for a human. It is good because you will remember where to find food when you are hungry or water when you are thirsty. It is bad because it will also remind you of where you experienced fulfillment for unnecessary desires. These desires include smoking. Your brain hard-wires the pleasurable feeling that comes with adding nicotine to your body. That makes kicking the cigarette habit one of the hardest things you will ever do.
The addiction cycle for a cigarette smoker is the same as it is for a drug user. A person inhales nicotine through a cigarette. The chemical then forces the brain to release Dopamine. The levels of Dopamine in the blood rise and you feel sated. As the Dopamine levels fall, your brain sends out a message that you require something. This message is called a craving. A craving causes you to seek the substance that will again elevate your Dopamine levels. It is a cycle that is repeated many times during each day.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances found on the planet. It causes the same strong reaction in the brain that heroine or crack use cause. Nicotine users are more likely than heroin users to fail at their attempt to quit using the substance. The more a person smokes, the more nicotine is required to reach the desired level of pleasure in the brain. This cycle leads to more smoking. Unfortunately, there is no cure for nicotine addiction.
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