02 Oct Stoptober, and why it’s hard to quit smoking
Is there someone in your life who you wish would stop smoking? Or maybe you’re a smoker your
self, and you want to quit? Well ladies and gentlemen, there is no time like the present: it’s Stoptober! But do you realise just how hard it is to quit an addiction? I’ll explain it, using science!
How tobacco addiction works
As you know, cigarette tobacco contains a lot of nicotine. This chemical looks a lot like acetylcholine, one of the most abundant neurotransmitters. So when nicotine reaches your brain, its poor cells can’t tell the difference and respond as if it were acetylcholine.
This causes a few things to happen over time:
- The receptors get damaged because of the overflow of nicotine in the brain.
- Cells make new receptors so they can keep detecting acetylcholine.
- Cells get overexited and adjust their way of communicating.
Now if the flow of nicotine stops, your cells will have to adjust their ways AGAIN, but this time they won’t be so flexible. You’ll start craving that extra kick.
Tobacco also contains a few chemicals that decrease the activity of MAO, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters, like dopamine.
This leads to a slightly higher dopamine level in the brain. When you smoke a cigarette, this is what makes you feel rewarded for smoking. Surprisingly enough, nicotine doesn’t play a part in this, but it does help you get rid of that aching feeling you get when you haven’t smoked for a while. The higher dopamine level is just an extra touch tobacco brings.
One of the best ways to get rid of your smoking addiction, is to embrace your enemy: nicotine. Your brain cells crave it, so give it to them – but only a little. With nicotine patches or nicotine chewing gum. These contain a small amount of nicotine, so your brain can gradually adjust to its new cigarette-free environment.
Smoking was very popular in the past. If you didn’t smoke, you were basically a nobody. Now it’s different: smokers are becoming the minority. There’s even a special ‘quitting’ month for those still left: Stoptober, right now! So why not make use of it and try your best at quitting? Maybe you’ll develop a new quitting technique!
Do you know any helpful tips to quit smoking? Let me know in the comments!