Sunday, October 27, 2013

Your Brain's Evil Plan to Keep You Addicted

Nicotine is a very powerful and addictive drug. Addiction to nicotine has the same effect on the brain as a heroin addiction. This addiction changes the way your brain behaves and functions.

But before we get into talking about the brain, let’s talk about the pleasure principle. The brain registers pleasure the same way regardless of how the pleasure is triggered. Pleasure can originate from sex, drugs, a monetary reward or even a meal.  When you engage in one of these activities it causes the brain to release a powerful surge of dopamine. It is dopamine that gives you the sensation of pleasure.
For every time you experience the activity, it causes the brain to release dopamine. The more you carry out the activity the more likely you are to become addicted. In the case of an average smoker you are giving your brain 200-400 hits of dopamine per day. That’s more hits than an average drug user and a very large window to become addicted.
But dopamine is not only responsible for the pleasure sensation; scientists have recently found that it also plays an important part in learning and memory. These two elements are vital in the process of becoming addicted.
Repeated exposure to the activity causes dopamine to interact with another neurotransmitter called glutamate. This turns the pleasure into reward-related learning. This means the brain will not only ask for the pleasure, it will now motivate you to repeat it. What happens next is the scary part.
The brain receptors become overwhelmed with all this dopamine. It is then that the brain makes an executive decision. It decides to produce less dopamine with each trigger.
So here you are, accustomed to all this dopamine and the pleasure that it provides. At this point you are addicted to this pleasure and the brain just decides “it’s too much,” and turns it down. This means that even if you keep up the same number of cigarettes per day, you will never experience the same kind of pleasure again! This is defined as “tolerance”.
As if that weren’t enough, the brain now focuses on it more and it makes you aware of it. It tells you “we need more.” This is when compulsion takes over. The pleasure of the activity is no longer being experienced but the brain still remembers it and has a need to recreate it and it will drive you to do everything in your power to make it happen. This is how the “craving” is born.
Now that the brain has got you craving the sensation you will never experience again it begins to torment you by using the learning process and the stored information about the cues associated with the desired activity. It will make you crave a cigarette when you see someone smoking, after you have finished a meal, when you are stressed or after sex. It will make you crave it during any situation that you have become accustomed to smoking in.  

The saddest part about this entire process is that we are tricked by the brain into believing that the activity still provides us with pleasure. But the reality is that once we are addicted the pleasure can never be experienced the same way. It is a dangerous mind game originated by brain.


This blog could not have been possible without the help of:

University of Minnesota

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