Someone made me aware of the below and - altho it's quite long -- it's quite informative and sure makes sense to me. I found it well worth the read and hope you do, too. It's in quotes, but I can't give credit 'cause I don't know who wrote it. Anyway, here it is:
"I've been doing research (actually, more like rooting around) into the neuropharmacological aspects of nicotine addiction and thought I'd share a bit here. When you experience something pleasurable, certain areas of your brain called reward centers activate by releasing dopamine. The presence of dopamine is what causes the pleasurable feeling, the enjoyment, the “ahhh”.
Smoking causes an increase in the dopamine levels. The actual mechanism is debated, but MRI studies confirm the increase occurs. As you continue to smoke, the dopamine levels remain high and the brain starts shutting down some of the reward centers in an attempt to return to normal. This causes the smoker to require more, which raises the dopamine levels, which causes the brain to shut down even more reward centers. A balance is eventually reached, typically at the point of a pack per day (about 20 mg of nicotine). This also applies to users of chewing tobacco and snuff.
So now a balance has been reached. The nicotine has raised dopamine levels and the brain has shut down reward centers to compensate. Heroin and cocaine users also reach this maintenance level where the fix no longer causes pleasure, but simply maintains “normal”. When the dopamine level begins to drop (30 – 60 minutes after the last smoke) the smoker begins to feel “the need” and has another fix which re-establishes the dopamine levels.
When the smoker quits the levels of nicotine fall rapidly, as do the dopamine levels. After three to five days the nicotine is out of the system. The brain, however, does not recover as quickly. Without the constant smoking stimulus, dopamine levels are far below where they were. Since reward centers were long ago shut down to compensate for the increased dopamine levels caused by smoking, the (now) ex-smoker is operating at a “reward deficit”. As a result, the ex-smoker feels depressed, ill-tempered, and sad (cries a lot). Those who use sleep as an escape mechanism will tend to sleep much more.
Another effect of this “reward deficit” is that ordinary, everyday rewards don’t seem to work anymore. In reality, they do cause an increase in dopamine levels, but with so many reward centers deactivated the increase is barely noticeable, if it can be noticed at all. This is why we quitters need to reward ourselves often. The size of the reward isn’t important, the quantity is. Essentially, we need to exercise our reward centers to rebuild them, just like muscles need to be exercised after a long period of disuse.
The research I’ve dug into indicates it takes “several months” to “over a year” , (depending on who you read) for the brain to reactivate enough reward centers to approach the “normal” of never-smokers. Perhaps this is the root of the idea that you aren’t fully quit until you’ve experienced all the seasons.
So early in your quits, reward yourselves often. Little stuff is great. Window shopping, watching ducks at the park, special coffee after work, whatever. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just enjoyable. Think free weights for the brain."
Thanks for the great information! It makes sense. Now I can understand why I'm feeling the way I am. I'm on day 2 of my quit. My only question is concerning the nicotine patches/gum and whether this keeps the dopamine level up like when we are smoking? Hmmmm.....
I think my levels are still down because I'm still feeling anxious, taking deep breaths, etc. There are so many other chemicals in cigarettes besides the nicotine, so I'm sure is withdrawal from some of those too.
Best of luck to everyone who is trying to quit right now. This thread is great for support!
Wow!!! This is absolutely AWESOME information Trish!!!
Thank you so much for taking the time. This one really hit home with me. It sums up the physiological aspect of quitting, doesn't it? It truly is amazing just how many parts of ones body go haywire by smoking and quitting. I sure am encouraged that everything returns to normal in time. Some people have told this process could take many years to complete.
Sure am glad I quit. Think I'll go reward myself now...
Yes, you hit the nail right on the head. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) as in patches, gum, lozenges, etc., does put nicotine back in the body and keeps the dopamine level up like when we are smoking. Sad, but true... It has helped people actually quit smoking though. On the other hand, there are also others out there who continued to use the gum, losenges, and inhalers for many years.
They don't call it Nicodemon for nothing...
Keep up the fantastic work you are doing on your quit. You should be proud of yourself because I know we all are.
Hi Trish, That was great information and helps to explain the blah feelings of the first couple of weeks. My pleasure center is working pretty good even after just three weeks on Chantix. I have been rewarding myself every day, with a coffee from Starbucks or a treat of some type. I think it is important to do something each day that activates the pleasure/reward center. I feel better than the day before, as each day passes. We are all going thru a major transition in our lives and we need to treat ourselves with a hand of loving care.
Congratulations Fibrana I am quite proud of you. Keep up the good work you started.
Last edited by SiiouteSapphire; 04-06-2007 at 06:49 PM.
Trish, that was really a very good article and made a lot of sense. Thank you for taking the time to look this up and post it. I'm kind of having a rough time right now, not with not smoking though the though is there, but with some other stuff. I was telling a patient tonight about it taking 3 days for the nicotene to get out of her system and and she had two days in the hospital so only one more day to go. I hope to be a better educator now that I have quit. But, again Trish, thank you as that was very informative!
Thanks! Wonderful article!!!!! I'm gonna copy it and keep it in my no smoking file that I keep on my computer.
I just made a deposit towared my reward deficit.
I went and had a massage. Even my husband went!! He needed it for putting up with me!! Felt FANTASTIC!! You ought to try it.
Thanks everyone! I'm on day 3 now!!! It's still hard, but I'm doing it. Feel a bit guilty about using the patches and inhaler, but I think I would go crazy if I didn't. I keep taking deep, deep breaths, even subconsciously. My lungs are screaming for me to smoke! Well...that's what it feels like.
Went to my first social function last night and got threw it, although it was hard and stressful! I was 9th place in a large poker tournament. Don't know how I got through it without a smoke, but I did! What helped was not having any alcohol while in the tournament. I knew that might be a trigger for me.
I'm still worred about being around a smoker, that I might be tempted. However, I don't know too many people who smoke! I have someone coming to my place today to do some work and I feel terrible asking him not to smoke. Maybe I'll just let him smoke. I have to get used to it eventually.