Nicotine is an addictive chemical which is the main ingredient used in tobacco products. When a person smokes a cigarette, the nicotine travels immediately to the lungs and is quickly absorbed by the bloodstream. And in as quick as eight seconds, it reaches the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Daniel Seidman, PhD, author of “Smoke-Free in 30 Days” and a psychotherapist at Columbia University said that the way a drug gets into the system has a lot to do with how addictive it is. He explained that inhaling nicotine through smoking is among the fastest ways to get any drug into the body because it goes directly to the brain.
The effects of nicotine in the body can be categorized into three – the physiological, the psychological, and the behavioral effects.
The Physiological Effects
Once the nicotine reaches the brain, higher levels of the hormone adrenaline are produced. This results to a variety of physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, constriction of veins and blood vessels, and changes in the electrical activities of the brain. At first, a smoker may feel uncomfortable with these abnormal responses but over time, his or her body learns to tolerate them until these physiological symptoms are not felt anymore (although they still occur, every time the smoker lights up).
The Psychological Effects
Nicotine also triggers the brain to release excess dopamine so the smoker feels an instant improvement in mood and relaxation. However, this does not last long so he or she would have to light up to experience the good feeling again. And because the body easily adapts to nicotine, it easily develops tolerance so the smoker has to increase his or her consumption in order to experience the same level of pleasantness and relaxation.
The Behavioral Effects
All the psychological effects suggest that nicotine has the ability to create changes in the brain chemistry and affect the “pleasure and reward” system. That is why when a person quits smoking; he or she experiences the withdrawal symptoms that impact behavior. These include mood swings, anxiety, irritability and extreme cigarette craving.
Essential Tips to Quit Smoking
Overcoming nicotine addiction may be challenging, but it is possible. If you are struggling with quitting smoking, here are essential tips that you might find useful:
- Set a quit date. You want to be specific on when you will stop smoking. Many smokers ignore this tip but experts agree that it is very much important. This will keep you focused on your quit smoking goals. Your quit date should be not too far from the future but not too soon that you no longer have time to prepare.
- Choose a quit method. While waiting for your quit date, take the time to research about different quit smoking methods. If you are a chronic smoker, quitting cold turkey may not be that effective and easy.
- Get support. Tell your friends and family that you are quitting so they can provide help and support. You can also join support groups, online and offline communities, and the like. They can make the quitting process much easier to bear.