What's Addictive About Cigarettes?

Most people know that cigarettes are addictive and that it's very difficult to stop smoking once you've started. Not everyone understands, however, what is so addictive about cigarettes or what they are made of. Understanding their make-up, and their power, may help to dissuade some people from getting started with this incredibly dangerous substance.

What is Nicotine?

Cigarettes are addictive because they contain nicotine. This is a drug that makes your brain think that it needs more. Nicotine causes the release of natural chemicals in the brain called beta-endorphins. They help you to feel both more alert and to feel calm. Nicotine doesn't get stored in the body, however, so the effects from it only last for a few minutes. In order to continue feeling the effects, which the body comes to enjoy, you need to smoke more and more.

More on Statistics

Nicotine is present in cigarettes, and also in cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff and chewing tobacco. With cigarettes, it is absorbed into the bloodstream when the person puffs on the cigarette. If a smoker takes 10 puffs on a cigarette over a five minute period, they will get 10 hits of nicotine in those five minutes.

What the Nicotine Does

The nicotine then increases the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This influences the brain's understanding of reward and pleasure. Other substances in cigarettes, including acetaldehyde, may enhance nicotine's effects on the brain. The addiction occurs because the hit on the cigarette makes the brain react and helps the body to feel good. In order to continue having these feelings, you need to take more hits on the cigarette. Over time, brain changes because of the nicotine exposure result in addiction.

What Happens When You Quit

Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking will tell you what an addiction feels like. When they try to quit, they have withdrawal symptoms which can include a very strong craving for tobacco, irritability, difficulty focusing, sleep issues and increased appetite. There are many treatment methods available today that can help smokers to tackle their addiction. Most of these methods deal both with the physical addiction, and the psychological desire to smoke.

Smoking is certainly detrimental to your health, and to the health of those around you. If you never begin smoking, then your body won't become addicted, and you won't have to struggle to quit. Of course, this is easier to say than to do for many people - but smoking is definitely an addictive habit and one that is very hard for many people to break. Keeping this in mind before beginning just might keep you from starting in the first place!