Can Nicotine Cause Depression?
Smoking and depression are words that are often mixed together. If you read “Is Nicotine a Stimulant or a Relaxant” you already know that nicotine is not a one way street. Sure the good outweighs the bad but it would be foolish to pretend there can be no downsides at all.
Why does smoking always makes people feel better and help people relax? Every time you smoke a cigarette it interferes with many chemicals in the brain, and it’s not just nicotine; MAO plays a huge role, almost matching the effects of nicotine when it comes to smoking. More on this later.
When smokers haven’t had a cigarette for a while, the craving for another one brings upon undesired feelings such as irritability and anxiety. For some people, quitting can be as effective as antidepressants. Especially people with mental health problems are likely to have a better quality of life after giving up smoking and feel much calmer, more positive and overall better.
First Symptoms: Mood Changes
Mood changes are common after quitting smoking. People who quit smoking without a replacement therapy are at an increased risk of smoking depression or feelings of sadness. Increased emotional feelings or other feelings that can affect your wellness are also usually accompanied by restlessness. Studies have shown that depression and smoking often go hand in hand. On one hand depression leads to smoking and smoking causes depression. There is a vicious cycle is at play along with shared genetic triggers.
Some researchers, however, believe that smoking may lead to depression and not the other way around.
Tobacco negatively impacted mental health. In general, the investigation found that having a higher BDI score was related with smoking. Moreover, the students who smoked were more likely to have clinical depression than the individuals who had never smoked.
The mechanisms that trigger a depression from nicotine are more or less similar regardless of how nicotine is consumed; this applies to when you feel better as well as when you experience depressive symptoms when you stop smoking. The only exception would be cigarettes as it is known for its acute negative emotions caused by quitting smoking. This becomes less of a mystery when studying the MAO inhibiting activity attached to cigarettes.
What does it mean to inhibit MAO?
MAO is short for an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. The enzyme’s role is to break down dopamine. It is a naturally occurring enzyme that mainly breaks down food but also breaks down certain neurotransmitters like dopamine in this scenario. Most smokers are not aware that cigarettes act as an MAO inhibitor along with the nicotine it contains. And in case you are wondering if this is a weak MAOI acting in the 1-5% range, the NIH back in 1998 actually researched this specific area and found MAO inhibiting activity from cigarettes to be in the 30-40% range. That means there is 30-40% less of an enzyme that is responsible of breaking down dopamine which combined with nicotine increase dopamine by that much more. The irony lies in the fact that something that feels so good is packaged in an end product that does nothing short of ending lives.
It is also interesting that it took 20 years from 1998 to 2018 for a simple proposal to regulate MAO, and it came not from the health department but actually from the tobacco industry themselves asking to regulate other tobacco products such as cigars. Ironic? Sad? Did they suddenly realize there could be even more MAO inhibitors in cigars which could undermine their business?
The article can be found here: Tobacco Smoke May Contain a Psychoactive Ingredient Other Than Nicotine
There is technically nothing wrong with inhibiting MAO. It’s in fact a brilliant way to get more dopamine, especially compared to some of the SSRI or anti-depressants that involve so many mechanisms and side effects; but the downside of depressive symptoms from smoking and depression is not worth the temporary illusion that we always feel better.
Relying to get 100% of your dopamine needs from nicotine lead a lot of people without knowing directly to smoking. Finding other ways to cope with stress is critical for your health and wellness. Because smoking is often used as a way of dealing with negative feelings, smokers need to find other ways if they want to stop smoking. Methods that people have found to be of great help include yoga, meditation, exercising along with a well-balanced diet and sometimes even hypnosis.
These changes are slow and making them happen takes time and effort. One must be patient and recognize progress is slow. Controlling all the factors may not be possible but identifying the source of your anxiety and trying to find ways to reduce or overcome it are as important if not more than finding new and better ways to cope with it.
Being prepared for withdrawal symptoms in advance and how to recognize depressive symptoms early
Some people think that the actions taken by those who quit smoking are predictable to some degree. Leading universities have been able to confirm this over time. Obvious withdrawal symptoms which anyone can experience at any time are migraines, finding it hard to focus, and general fogginess. Having a natural diet consisting of fruits and vegetables will naturally increase your fiber intake but simultaneously reduce your amount of refined sugars.
Nicotine replacement therapy and medication
The higher rates of the many people who succeed go through the same increased stress intensity at a biological level but without the emotional pain through the help of NRT. Many Nicotine replacement therapies have been medically reviewed to ease the symptoms of depression and make us feel better. Even some anti-depressants like SSRI and other medications unrelated to neither smoking nor nicotine have been shown to help alleviate depression smoking.
Smokers should have as their first priority to become non-smokers and to seek advice on stopping smoking to find out which treatments are best tailored to them. Any doctor will be able to help you lead in the direction to improve your mood and make you feel better. You may also seek help from a pharmacist for additional support and more information about certain medication and the risk associated with it. Many medications were found to have a link to cause the opposite effect such as increasing the intensity when you are depressed. You can also read the latest researchers articles and latest study they are conducting and their relationship to the university as you would be surprised to how many times those two entities can be related through sponsorships or their favorite are straight donation. It’s been well documented that a lot of studies had a link and financially related to their donor. A better approach or a complimentary approach is to make sure sleep and quality of sleep is not forgotten on the effects to the brain.
The process of finding risk in studies might lead many to research the relationship between stress and problems and the use of its support to help those that are depressed.