Why Is Nicotine Addictive?
Most people know that they are addicted to nicotine but don’t know exactly why. Does it even matter to know which effects of nicotine are responsible for which part of the brain? Not really an urgent topic but if you’re consuming it all day everyday it might be something helpful to know over the long run. After all nicotine isn’t like any other drug. Most assume it has something to do with dopamine and just like every other drug that works on dopamine, over time that substance becomes addictive. While this may be true of a lot of drugs, those that are addicted to nicotine especially, if they start smoking know that there is more at play here. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal alone give us that hint. We have to remember that nicotine is both a stimulant and a relaxant, which means it plays on both sides of the mind. This is not to say that dopamine is not the main driver of addiction but simply to point out the other effects of nicotine; for example Bupropion (known as Wellbutrin) acts as a norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI) and a nicotinic receptor antagonist.
More Enjoyable Times
The study seemed to have made a key observation, “Even more interestingly, nicotine also seems to make other, non-drug activities more enjoyable.” While this may seem like simply a psychological effect with no tangible addiction to any specific part of the brain like other nicotine addiction mechanisms, doing those same ‘non-drug activities’ without nicotine for someone who tries to quit can seem impossible, especially if you are to stop your dependence on cigarette smoke.
The “high” from nicotine addiction is much shorter than the one associated with other drugs, and even shorter than smoking cigarettes. Given the MAO activity produced by cigarette smoke, the level of nicotine doesn’t need to be higher to get more dopamine effects and thus the receptors become more addicted which causes the brain to want to get even more dopamine.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms and What to Expect
Research on nicotine addiction and the effects on the receptors this dependence causes show that there is a strong correlation on health and what products are at use to get the nicotine. While there may not be many more receptors involved, those same receptors will be craving 30%-40% harder when a smoker tries to quit their dependence on the cigarette.
Nicotine Addiction VS Smoking Addiction
Nicotine addiction and nicotine withdrawal will almost always be more severe for smokers who try to quit cigarettes. This is reflected sharply when withdrawal symptoms begin to appear. The picture above shows the MAO levels in the brain of a non-smoker compared to a smoker. What does this mean? This picture simply illustrates what a reduction of 30-40% of monoamine oxidase inhibition looks like in the brain when smoking cigarettes, or like the article points out using prescription medication.
What does smoking tobacco have to do with the level of nicotine? Since nicotine releases dopamine and MAO inhibitors that are naturally present in the brain breakdown dopamine, we can approximate that with 30-40% less MAO inhibitors there is that much more dopamine present in the brain when smoking tobacco compared to using straight nicotine. Since MAO inhibitor drugs have been created and approved by the FDA for depression, inhibiting MAO enzymes is not necessarily what’s, rather that the MAOI effects are ‘cloaked’ in the form of smoke and that most people are not familiar with MAOI’s anyways. Long story short is that your mind is not playing tricks when you feel better after a smoke, it’s scientifically mechanic, whether intentionally engineered or not.
Habits and Brain Conditioning
An often overlooked factor is the obvious ‘ritual’ through which nicotine is obtained, whether through vaping, smoking or lozenges. One that has become dependent on nicotine has also become dependent on every move associated with getting that nicotine, although to a lesser degree; this includes things such as handling it, the smell of it, the feel and the sight of a cigarette all produce a degree of pleasurable effects and are deeply rooted in the brain of anyone with nicotine addiction. It may sound crazy for non-smokers on how someone can possibly get excited from the smell of smoke, but that doesn’t do much help to the smoker. It is certainly true that the smell of a cigarette is not enjoyable, but expressing that disgust will not get much done in terms of breaking that dependence, research shows. The best use of your time when confronting a smoker in your family or if it’s a loved one is to search for information that will help them switch products. Effectively, if a person tries to quit for even a day or two by trying difference products like a nicotine patch or nicotine lozenges, the use of these products causes the start of the process to quit, and to eventually quit for good.