Now that the decision to quit smoking cigarettes has been finally made, do we try to sidestep the addiction problem by switching to vaping or do we engage in honestly addressing and engaging in nicotine addiction recovery?
Serious adverse health effects of nicotine cause additional concern. Nicotine is harmful to the cardiovascular system by causing constriction of arteries that supply the heart. It increases blood pressure and increases blood viscosity.
All these effects raise one’s risk of heart attack and blood clots which can block flow of blood to the heart, brain and other vital organs.
Assuming that we will want to opt for and take the approach of honestly addressing and engaging the dilemma, how then do we overcome nicotine addiction ?
How Nicotine Damages the Brain
In order to quit smoking successfully for the long term, it helps to understand the nature of nicotine addiction and what it takes to break free of it.
Early regular use of any nicotine-containing product poses a risk to a lifetime of addiction. Nicotine’s effect on the developing brain can irreversibly damage the reward systems in the brain.
This concern is accentuated by the rapidly increasing use of e-cigs in adolescents and young adults and nicotine’s powerful effect on developing brains. The human brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25.
Not only does nicotine use make young brains more susceptible to addiction, but it also causes reduced attention span, diminished cognition and enhanced impulsive reactions. To complicate matters, these changes also affect memory and motivation.
Nicotine can reach peak levels in the bloodstream and brain very rapidly.
This is the reason why the epidemic of vaping and the popularity among younger generations is so detrimental to continued good health and healthy brain development.
Effects on Brain Chemistry
Let’s take a look at how nicotine affects brain chemistry and begin the educational process that will help us battle this addiction.
Nicotine activates the same reward pathways in the brain that other drugs of abuse such as cocaine or amphetamines do, although to a lesser degree.
Research has shown that nicotine increases the level of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of pleasure and well-being. It is also responsible for increasing levels of Serotonin.
The acute effects of nicotine wear off within minutes, so Smokers must continue dosing themselves frequently throughout the day to maintain the seemingly pleasurable effects of nicotine and to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
The cognitive, self-control, and decision-making strategy portion of the brain is still in development. And this is the area which is largely affected by nicotine.
Nicotine exposure, increasingly occurring as a result of e-cigarette use, may induce changes that sensitize the brain to other drugs and prime it for future substance abuse.
As blood nicotine levels became comparable to those found in smokers, they found the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus area of the brain was cut by up to 50 per cent.
Cell death also increased as nicotine levels rose.
E-cigarette vaping devices, those nicotine-rich cigarette alternatives, may not be as safe as once believed. This is especially so for the market’s fastest growing population segment of teenagers.
Research shows nicotine intake during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment later in life.
Brain development continues throughout adolescence and into young adulthood.
Nicotine has adverse effects in older smokers and vapors as well.
Nicotine is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the U.S., and the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death. Only about seven percent of people who try to kick nicotine on their own last at least one year.
Besides nicotine’s addictive properties, another factor to consider includes its easy availability through the sophisticated marketing and advertising methods of tobacco companies and manufacturers of vaping equipment and flavorings.
Total abstinence appears to be the only viable solution.
Methods using prescriptions, pills, patches, potions, and vaping all contain nicotine and should be avoided at all costs.
Drug-free methods to quit smoking should be the only avenues of pursuit.
These would include acupuncture, hypnosis, abstinence psychotherapy, behavior modification, and aversion therapy.
It’s your choice.
Make it a good one.