If I were to ask the average person to name five of the most common stimulants abused by people I believe that most would not be able to name the one that has the highest addiction rate nor could they even remotely understand the extent of harm that is created through its sabotaging of the central nervous system.
One of the most powerful stimulant addictions:
For first-time users, Tobacco has the highest probability (32%) of becoming an addiction, more so than even the drugs of heroin (23%), cocaine (17%), marijuana (9%), or pain medications (8%) (Lyles, 2009). Unfortunately, the 3,000 new teenagers that takes up smoking each day in the U.S. do not realize that smoking is not only detrimental to their physical health but also to their mental health. Research shows that smoking teens increase their chances of developing certain anxiety disorders as well as exacerbate others through co-addiction.
How it affects my family and yours:
My son works at a grocery store that is filled with employees that smoke. Every time I shop there I discover another employee that smokes outside the store on their break in full view of all the shoppers. After about 50 visits this past year I have been amazed by the number of people who work at that store that smoke. Either the working conditions there are incredibly stressful or the percentage of American smokers simply falls in line there. My concern really is not so much the aesthetics at the store front as it is my overriding concern over the harm they are doing to their bodies and mind, the possible deeper hurts that are running beneath the surface that are causing them to medicate their pain, and the possible discomfort and influence that the numbers (as well as the smoke itself) have on my teenage son as to when he takes breaks with them.
Does smoking really calm the nerves?
Similar to many other addictions, the pleasure from smoking comes from nicotine’s ability to release the chemical dopamine from the brain’s pleasure center. However, the nerves are affected in a negative way in this complex molecular interaction between the central nervous system (CNS) and the chemicals of the brain. In fact, a subtle “anesthetic” trade off occurs between the “reawakening” of nerves of a smoker and the pleasure of dopamine being flooded into their system.
Most people do not realize that tobacco is actually a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, or simply put, a drug that over stimulates (wreaks havoc) on the nerves. The myth that people smoke to calm their nerves is borderline comical because of what nicotine actually does to the nerves. In fact, research shows that smokers actually have a higher incidence of clinical anxiety than those who don’t puff (so much for calming the nerves).
When someone smokes they are actually stimulating a nerve into oblivion after just one cigarette (Lyles, 2009). Once a nerve is “put in the casket” so to speak the body has a second line of defense to awaken it. As the nerves are being stimulated into oblivion (“made calm” if you will) they attempt a rescue plan by waking more receptors to regulate the nicotine and dopamine flood. But as a smoker continues to smoke more cigarettes and ingest more nicotine these “second line” defense receptors are stimulated into oblivion and defeated as well. It takes about 45 minutes for a nerve to recover from a “nicotine hit,” which is about the same time many smokers start to crave for another one. As the nerve “awakens” it is time to put another “hit” on it (“calm it”).
In addition to nicotine wreaking havoc on the nerves, it also attacks and weakens neurotransmitters such as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), the neurotransmitter that enables us to remain calm and limits our anxiety. In essence, nicotine sabotages the functionality of the central nervous system to where the smoker craves more dopamine or pleasure to deal with the pain of a messed up nervous system. Smoking actually creates problems with nerves or gives you nervous problems. But to say that smoking actually “calms the nerves” is quite a misnomer. In fact, research shows that teens who smoke a pack a day increase their chances of developing a panic disorder by 15 times.
People turn to cigarettes for different reasons. Some chose smoking as teenagers to fit in, some to experiment and some mistakenly to medicate the pain from the stresses of life. While nicotine does indeed bring pleasure to the body from its release of the chemical dopamine, the aftermath of addiction actually worsens a person’s situation in the long-term as opposed to the short-term pleasure that leads a person to believe it is worth it. This article doesn’t even cover hundreds of other health problems that smoking causes or contributes towards.
In conclusion, far is the truth that smoking “calms the nerves”. Rather, smoking creates and exacerbates nerve problems.
“Addiction & Recovery” (speaker Dr. Michael Lyles). Stimulants. Lesson 204. DVD. www.lightuniversity.com, 2009