How does nicotine work

How does nicotine work


Ever wondered what’s going on in your brain
when you puff a cigarette? This is a tale of two chemicals,
the nice and the not so nice, and what happens when they meet. Nicotine is fast and it’s sneaky. Like an Olympic sprinter, it races into the
lungs. From the lungs it enters the blood and reaches
the brain within seconds of that first puff. The brain is made up of many cells called
neorons. Nicotine actualy affects pathways in the brain
called the reward pathway. The reward pathway is a normal and important
part to our survival. It’s the area of the brain which makes us
feel good every time we eat or do something we enjoy. Once nicotine arrives at this area of the
brain, nicotine attaches itself to the receptor on neurons. Like a lock sitting in a key and this wakes
up the reward pathway of the brain. This is where dopamine comes in,
the nice chemical. When the reward pathway is activated, dopamine
gets released and we feel warm and fuzzy, and satisfy. However, too much repetitive stimulation of
the reward system can be dangerous, especially with nicotine. Nicotine hijacks the reward pathway attaching
to a nicotine receptor to release dopamine and convincing the brain that we need another
cigarette. Everytime we smoke, we get that feeling of
reward and so we do it more. This sets up an unhealthy pattern as nicotine
tricks the brain into activating those warm and fuzzy feelings with every puff. This causes changes in the brain over time. The longer you smoke, the more and more receptors
are created. And each one is craving its nicotine fix. Over time the body learns that it needs nicotine
to feel good, but it can never get enough. That’s why it’s so hard to quit. The longer we smoke, the stronger the cravings
for nicotine become. With no nicotine to bind in to nicotine receptors,
the reward pathway is not stimulated anymore, this means there is less dopamine. With less dopamine, people get withdrawal
symptoms. The good news is that these changes in the
brain start returning to normal the longer you go without a cigarette. Getting past the first stage of withdrawal
when you quit can be hard, with lots of empty nicotine receptors screaming out
for their fix. But the good news is that over time
there are fewer and fewer nicotine receptors as your brain goes back to the way it was
before you smoked. If you need help kicking the habit
call Quit on 13 78 48, or go to www.quit.org.au

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