Why the body gets tricked into becoming addicted to smoking…
The scientific reason behind the habit.
I hear smokers say they can’t give up because the tobacco is an addiction. It is not the tobacco they are addicted to, it is Nicotine.
It’s not actually the cigarette that makes them feel good, but their body’s own internal response to that cigarette.Paul Mckenna
Nicotine is the poison
Nicotine is present in all tobacco products and it reacts with the brain. It activates receptors inside the brain which release the reward chemical dopamine.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical responsible for transmitting signal between nerve cells) present in the part of the brain helping to control emotions, motivation, and the reward/pleasure system.
It is the ‘motivate‘ chemical in part of the body’s natural survival systems. Seeking for reward/ pleasure to fulfill needs.
Dopamine is released in activities such as eating and sex.
We will repeat activities essential for our survival by associating them with pleasure or reward.
Dopamine also tells the brain when we have done something good and it helps us to remember what we did, so we will repeat this behavour to receive the ‘reward’ again – until it is automatic. This begins the Reward Cycle.
I smoke when I am stressed.
The brain will not only remember what was done that was so pleasurable but also everything that was around at the time.
I have my last cigarette in the garden before I go to bed
So it is not just what we were doing at the time but also the environment and how we are feeling that will trigger this need to experience this reward again.
I enjoy a cigarette after dinner.
Drugs artificially stimulate the production of dopamine in the reward cycle.
- They can release dopamine quicker than a natural reward
- Can produce a much higher amount of dopamine than a natural reward
- The effects can last longer than a natural reward
The reward is so powerful, that it can very quickly become an Addiction.
The role of Endorphin
Endorphin is also a neurotransmitter present in parts of the brain.
It too is considered one of the ‘happy’ chemicals, however it is not so much to ‘feel good’ but more to ‘feel less pain’. When secreted it can also lead to feelings of ‘Euphoria’ and the release of sex hormones.
A Cigarette calms me down
So Dopamine is primarily responsible for re-enforcing pleasurable behaviour and Endorphins are released in response to pain to help alleviate anxiety and stress.
Endorphin is released during exercise and when we laugh.
If anyone was honest they would admit that they did not enjoy their first cigarette. Unconsciously they learnt to like it!
Here is how….
When ‘learning’ to smoke, Endorphin would have been release to help the body deal with the pain of dispelling the all the poisonous chemicals that are present in tobacco.
The body soon learns to save the natural Endorphin release for the next ‘attack’ of poisonous chemicals. So the body will feel an absence of this.
Remember: when Endorphin levels are high we feel less pain and reduced negative effects of stress.
To release Endorphin, to feel better, the smoker has to give the body a reason.
Therefore the brain has associated smoking a cigarette with the release of Endorphin.
I really need a cigarette
Ta Dah! A craving is formed.
Smoking – The Reward Cycle…
The affects of this pleasurable experience start to decline as the nicotine begins to leave the body. The smoker will unconsciously start to experience stress.
This is because the body no longer releases the natural cycle of Endorphin. The smoker starts to crave it.
Signals are sent to the brain to ‘seek’ the reward and Dopamine will be released to do just that. The motivating molecule will look for ways to achieve this reward.
Falsely the brain has now learnt that smoking is essential for survival as it has tapped into this pleasure/reward system.
Their Stress is caused by the very thing that they use to Calm Down!
So in reality smokers are…
more agitated, stressed and anxious because they have used an external source to calm themselves down. They have become dependent on artificial substitutes as they do not have any strategies to able to cope with stress on their own naturally.
Hypnotherapy can help to break this false reward cycle