Mechanism of Nicotine Addiction
Although you know what diseases smoking may cause; although you know what negative impact smoking may have on your mental health conditions; although you know how destructive smoking cigarettes can be to our environment (please see the facts on tobacco); when it comes to quitting smoking, you just cannot help to look for a cigarette hours after having that famous last cigarette you promised. You may be ashamed of not being tough enough; however, do you know that nicotine actually physically altered the structure and function of your brain?
Nicotine mimics the structure of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which activates the release of another neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is also called the pleasure molecule, which mediates the activation of the reward centre of the brain and gives you the sensation of pleasure. Nicotine may cause 2-10 times more dopamine release in the reward centre than natural reward cascades do. The brain reacts by downregulating the dopamine receptors. You need the receptors to sense the dopamine and execute its action of creating the pleasure you desire. As the number of the receptors decreased, the impact of dopamine in reward sensation generation decreases. It is called dopamine tolerance. Once the smokers develop dopamine tolerance, it is harder for them to have the sense of well-being and calmness. Or, they need more dopamine to reach the same level of satisfaction. Therefore, constantly supplying your brain with nicotine by smoking cigarettes is your only choice to keep yourself functioning properly, and you become less sensitive to other joys in life, such as the flavor of good food as well as sexual pleasure. Once you stop smoking or just reduce the smoking level, the lack of dopamine will bring up a series of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as irritation, anxiety, or depression. These withdrawal symptoms can be so intense and overwhelming that they just impair your capability of being under control and functioning properly. That’s why you need physical help to overcome the physical impact of the alteration that nicotine has done to your brain.
At Stop Centres, our in-house developed soft laser Stop Tobacco treatments stimulate carefully selected acupoints on the outer ears and other body parts and, by stimulating the production of serotonin and endorphin, restore the natural pathway of releasing dopamine as well as normal level of dopamine receptors. Therefore, you are very calm and relaxed after the treatment. Basically, our treatments help you eliminate the need to smoke and gain back the natural response to the joys life has to offer.
Source: Nicotine addiction N Engl J Med. 2010 Jun 17; 362(24): 2295–2303.