Family * Travel * Food

How Nicotine Affects Your Brain

People who use cigarettes and electronic cigarettes get dependent on the extremely addictive chemical nicotine. It can cause several side effects, including anxiety, difficulty concentrating and nicotine withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking. When smoked, nicotine binds to specific receptors in the brain called nicotinic cholinergic receptors. These receptors normally receive the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which helps regulate respiration, heart rate and muscle movement. 

image credit


Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that communicates chemical information between brain cells, aids in the control of motivation, mood, and attention. It's also part of the reward system in your brain, which is why nicotine can trigger feelings of pleasure and satisfaction when smoked. When a person smokes cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly enters the bloodstream. It then reaches the brain, where it binds to cholinergic receptors. These receptors normally receive the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which controls physical responses like breathing, heart and muscle movement, and cognitive functions like memory. Nicotine binds to these receptors and triggers the release of dopamine, which reinforces the behavior of smoking and leads people to seek out tobacco products. The heightened levels of dopamine can also lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability, depression and difficulty concentrating. If a person stops smoking, the brain's receptors no longer receive nicotine and do not produce this neurotransmitter. As a result, low dopamine levels can trigger symptoms such as cravings, restlessness, frustration and depression.

It can be especially difficult for adolescent nicotine users, as research has shown that youth may have an even more profound effect on the brain because of their immature reward systems and slower development of prefrontal control. Study shows long-term nicotine use can change how the brain works about self-control, stress and learning, resulting in addiction and withdrawal symptoms when smoking stops.


The effects of nicotine on the brain trigger a series of chemical reactions that create short-lived feelings of pleasure. These are known as cravings. They can occur at any time and be difficult to overcome. Frequent nicotine use changes how an individual's brain works, making it harder to control impulses and concentrate. Many people become addicted to cigarettes, but nicotine can also be found in other tobacco and e-cigarette products such as pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, hookahs, and e-cigarettes (also called "vapes"). Regardless of the form it takes, isolated nicotine is dangerous. It can cause lung disease, heart problems, and stroke. It also increases the risk of cancer and may contribute to weight gain.

The effects of nicotine are especially problematic for adolescents because their brains are still developing. Nicotine exposure can make it harder to learn and concentrate, making teenagers more likely to try other tobacco and e-cigarette products in the future. It can also make it harder for them to control their behavior, which could increase their chances of abusing other drugs later in life.

Fortunately, it is possible to get help for cravings, including counseling and medications. Therapists can teach you to cope with stress, anxiety, or negative emotions without nicotine. They can also introduce you to replacing cigarettes with healthier habits, such as taking a walk when you feel the urge to smoke or eating a snack when you crave sugar.

Cholinergic Receptors

The primary addictive component in cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, hookahs, and e-cigarettes (vapes) is nicotine. When you smoke, nicotine enters your body through the lungs and passes quickly through your bloodstream to bind with cholinergic receptors in the brain. These receptors are proteins that respond to the binding of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and can be divided into two groups: nicotinic and muscarinic. In a neuron, acetylcholine binds to the nicotinic receptor and opens an ion channel that diffuses cations through the membrane. It causes the neuron to depolarize and fire its action potential. On the other hand, Muscarinic receptors bind acetylcholine indirectly through a second messenger. They are more prevalent in the central nervous system and the neuromuscular junction in skeletal muscle.

When nicotine is smoked, it binds to nAChR in the prefrontal cortex and blocks the release of acetylcholine by nAChR. It reduces short-term plasticity in these neurons, and the resulting repression of information processing in the prefrontal cortex may contribute to impaired working memory. Adolescents seem particularly vulnerable to nicotine's rewarding effects, partly explained by their slower development of prefrontal cognitive control than adults. Using positron emission tomography, we have found that adolescent smokers display altered brain activation patterns during a complex mental tasks.


Smokers go through withdrawal when they try to quit smoking, and these symptoms can be quite intense. They can include cravings for cigarettes, irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. They may also have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. To ease these symptoms, your loved one can try to get enough sleep and eat well-balanced meals. They can also practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga. They should try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. They should also talk to their doctor about how they are feeling.

When a person takes any addictive substance, it changes the balance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Drugs like nicotine activate dopamine receptors while they suppress acetylcholine receptors. Over time, these changes can cause a person to develop tolerance and dependence. Tolerance means that it takes larger and larger doses of a drug to experience the same effects, and support means that a person experiences withdrawal when they stop using it. Addiction affects many parts of the brain, but it can be hard to understand how it happens. It is important to seek treatment if you or someone you love has a problem with addiction. Your doctor can help you address your withdrawal symptoms and offer other resources to assist in recovery, such as support groups or a therapist.

Blogger Template Created For Mom Files All Rights Reserved