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Tobacco: Nicotine and Dopamine

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

What happens when we smoke?

tobacco: nicotine and dopamine


There is something about smoking that is very healthy for us, and that is taking a break to relax, unplug, and enjoy.

This article analyzes what happens to us when we smoke psychologically and physically.



What happens when we smoke?

Nicotine that enters our body through cigars activates structures in our brains called receptors. When these receptors are activated, they release a brain chemical called dopamine. To understand the process better, we need to learn about nicotine and dopamine.


What is nicotine?

Nicotine is an oily alkaloid that turns yellow in contact with the air. It occurs naturally in several varieties of plants, including tomatoes, aubergines, and potatoes but is found at its highest levels in the tobacco plant. Once inhaled, breathed in, or chewed, nicotine passes rapidly into the bloodstream and acts directly on the vegetative nervous system, which controls the reflex activities of the body.


The problem with nicotine is that it is a highly addictive chemical. Also, it can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, the flow of blood to the heart, and a narrowing of our arteries. Nicotine may also contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, which in turn, may lead to a heart attack.


What is dopamine?

Dopamine (also called the chemical messenger) is a Neurotransmitter that plays a fundamental role in our brains. Dopamine is produced naturally within our bodies, and the nervous system uses it to send messages between nerves for functions like motricity and is used therapeutically for its stimulating action on the cardiovascular system.


Dopamine is responsible for those highs when we are feeling good. The proof is that almost every mental illness and other public health matters like obesity are related to dopamine shortages. According to the Centers of disease control and prevention, some sleep disorders like insomnia and narcolepsy are related to dopamine as well.

Basically, when we feel down, is because our dopamine levels are low.



Healthy ways to get dopamine


This pleasure response to dopamine is a big part of nicotine addiction. But there are other ways to get dopamine. The Cleveland clinic invites us to engage in activities that make us happy or feel relaxed in order to increase dopamine levels. The healthier ways to increase dopamine in our bodies can go from listening to music and petting a puppy to yoga and meditation. Exercise and high-protein diets are helpful in increasing dopamine secretion.


Cigars and health

Do you see the relationship between dopamine and that fantastic moment we enjoy a premium cigar? It can be contradictory. There is the health hazard fact of smoking cigars, but on the other hand, that brief moment when we cut, light, and smoke our cigars is a moment of dopamine release, and dopamine makes us feel good.

Puro smoking health effects can be an increased risk for cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, and throat and is linked to gum disease and tooth loss).


Is smoking cigars less risky than cigarettes?

This is an argument we, cigar smokers, have all the time. However, it isn't. Cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.


Both cigars and cigarettes are made from tobacco which is a source of nicotine. According to the Mayo Clinic, a single full-size cigar can contain nearly as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Even if we don't intentionally inhale the tobacco smoke past our oral cavity, large amounts of nicotine can be absorbed through the mouth lining. The national cancer institute affirms that all tobacco products are related to health risks like heart disease and lung diseases. While cigar smokers are more prone to mouth-throat cancers, cigarette smokers are to lung cancer.




Conclusions

Because of nicotine, while we smoke, we release dopamine which is the chemical that makes us feel good, relaxed, and happy. So in the nicotine-dopamine marriage, nicotine is the bad guy, and dopamine is the hero. There is a battle between what makes us feel joy and the substance that can potentially make us ill. In excess, cigarette smoking and cigar smoking are both equally harmful to our health.


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