Your Brain on Cigarettes: 5 Gruesome Effects of Smoking on Your Brain

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Smoking doesn’t only damage the lungs – it affects every part of the human body, from head to toe. In this article, we will look into the effects of smoking on your brain.

The reason why cigarettes are addictive is because they contain nicotine, a neurotransmitter-shape molecule that reaches the brain in 8 seconds, activating the areas involved in rewards and pleasure. Over time, the brain develops resistance on nicotine by reducing the number of receptors. Because of this, the smoker may feel the need to increase his or her cigarette consumption to experience the same level of pleasure. Research shows that people who start out initially with two cigarettes a day end up smoking a pack daily in just one year. This is how addictive cigarettes are.

But the thing is – smoking causes ill effects to your brain. The brain is a vital organ that functions as the ‘control’ system of your body, making sure that all your body organs work harmoniously with one another. With every cigarette you smoke, you are making your brain at risk of disease-causing damage. Below are the major effects of smoking on your brain:

Smoking increases your risk of stroke.

Cigarette smoking is one of the major risk factors for stroke. Nicotine thickens the blood, disrupting blood flow from reaching the brain and other parts of the body. Excessive smoking causes the arteries to lose their elasticity. Basically, the brain depends on the arteries to get its supply of oxygenated blood. This often leads to smoke. Chronic smokers are at greater risk of stroke than non-smokers.

Smoking causes your brain to shrink, literally.

It has been found the smokers with multiple sclerosis (MS) are more prone to brain shrinkage and lesions. Research has also found that smoking increases a person’s risk of cognitive problems, such as motor function. Many people report experiencing fidgety hands and stuttering speech in a short span of time, after having smoked a few cigarettes.

Smoking inhibits the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.

Think smoking makes you feel good? Maybe yes, but only for a short while. In fact, chronic smokers are more vulnerable to depressive moods because it reduces the natural ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, so you only depend on nicotine to uplift your mood. This is why the withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability and mood swings, immediately creep in a few hours after your last cigarette.


It blocks oxygen supply to your brain.

It’s a myth that smoking increases your mental focus.  The reduced oxygen supply to the brain does not only make you at risk of stroke, it also makes your body defenseless against fatigue. The restlessness and jitter you feel after smoking is due to the lack of oxygen supply to your brain. What’s more, your heart has to work double time to pump blood, so you also experience an increase in heartbeat.

Smoking lowers your IQ.


Since smoking affects cognitive functions, there’s no wonder why it leads to poor IQ. The reduction in mental sharpness is caused by the deprivation of oxygen supply in the brain and the increased presence of carbon monoxide. Numerous studies suggest that smoking increases the risk of mental decline and dementia.


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