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Nicotine Dependency

According to statistics there are around 1.3billion smokers on the planet, which roughly means that 20% of the world’s population smokes on a daily basis. If current trends continue 1 billion people will die of tobacco related disease in the 21st century. Frightening statistics.

We all know the risks of smoking and most of us know of someone who has died as a result of smoking yet we persist in doing it. Despite smoking bans in buildings in various countries with threats of fines, and health warnings on packets, smokers can be seen in all weathers indulging in their ‘fix.’ But why do we do it when we know the risks?


Nicotine is produced by the tobacco plant as a protection against being eaten by insects. Used as a crop insecticide it is a super toxin and more lethal than arsenic. Surprisingly, it possesses a chemical signature similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which along with associated neurons causes what are known as anti-excitatory actions – in other words a stimulation repressive action. Which would explain the feeling of calm many of us experience after reaching for a cigarette.

Once inside the brain, nicotine fits into a range of chemicals that allow it control over many neuro-chemicals, one of these being dopamine. Dopamine is the primary motivation neurotransmitter, which creates a yearning or wanting sensation in the brain designed to induce the need to survive in the human body. Through pathways, dopamine transmits the need to succeed, to eat and basically the need to exist. And every time we fulfil one of these needs it is recorded in our memory.

The Lies Created By Nicotine

What nicotine does to our brain is to sneak into the bloodstream and turn on the dopamine pathway circuitry, hijacking the mind’s priorities and giving us the illusion that the intake of nicotine is as important for survival as taking in food and water. The more we satisfy these false survival needs, the more the brain records these into the memory banks until we become convinced that nicotine is essential for existence.

Not only does nicotine “fib” to our brains that it is vital for survival, it also stimulates our fight or flight response which gives us that all important “high.” It is easy to see why smokers find it so difficult to quit when nicotine gives us both satisfying feelings and also false memories, which overshadow pre-addiction memories.

Mental Illness

Nicotine dependency is a real mental illness. There is no cure. Because even after giving up, just one cigarette can immediately alert the memory cell highways into the old pattern of needing that nicotine to survive. With the brain falsely wired up to need more and more “hits” of nicotine, giving in to that single cigarette can create urges that we feel obliged to feed.

Using this information can actually help smokers to quit. Understanding that we are living a lie is the first step to recovery and can help with the withdrawal symptoms.

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