How Does Smoking Affect Your Brain?

In this day and age, we don’t have to be told smoking is bad for us. We know it does terrible things to our body’s organs and overall health. Yet people still smoke. Unfortunately, it is an addictive habit that not only affects our body’s organs but also our brain. Here’s how it does.

Causes Addiction

Tobacco is known for its addictive substance called nicotine. Once nicotine is inhaled it only takes 8 seconds to reach the brain. Consequently, it engages our brain’s receptors and activates certain areas of the brain.

The result provides feelings of reward and pleasure, which is why the smoker ‘gets hooked’ on smoking, and so the vicious cycle begins.

As the smoker’s habit develops, the brain begins to develop a resistance to the nicotine and the number of receptors is reduced. The smoker then needs to increase their nicotine intake to make up for the decreasing effects.

The smoker will then (usually unconsciously) keep increasing the number of cigarettes they smoke each day to be able to experience the same level of pleasurable feeling they know they can get through smoking.

This is the reason why smokers who start out just smoking a couple a day, end up smoking a packet a day. At the same time, the smoker may consciously select stronger cigarettes to achieve the same result.

Reduced Feel Good Receptors

Smoking increases a person’s risk of suffering from depression and other mental health problems due to a reduction of their ‘feel good’ hormones in the brain.

This occurs because the artificial stimulation in the brain caused by the nicotine molecules – that are acting like neurotransmitters – lead to the long-term reduction of these receptors in certain parts of the brain.

IQ Levels Affected

According to a study that had 20,000 young adults as participants, the more a person smoked, the lower their IQ became. The study showed that smokers aged between 18 and 21 years of age were found to have an IQ average of 94, while the non-smokers belonging to the same age group had an average IQ of 101.

The study included siblings, and the researchers found that the non-smokers had higher IQ scores compared to their siblings who smoked.

Lowers Concentration

Many smokers will tell you that smoking helps them concentrate, and tend to smoke one cigarette after another whenever they are doing something that needs their full focus and attention.

However, studies prove otherwise. Experts have found that the reduced supply of oxygen to the brain, caused by the narrowing of the arteries, makes it harder to concentrate.

This habit doesn’t increase their concentration at all. It only causes fatigue, fidgeting, and restlessness – all because of the reduction in oxygenated blood to the brain. Again, the vicious cycle starts, as to compensate for their fatigue and lack of focus, they light up another cigarette.

Any perceived “nicotine hit” will be very temporary, however, the negative health impacts will be long-lasting.

Reduced Brain Volume

Another way smoking affects your brain health is it reduces brain volume. Studies show that smokers are more likely to reduce their hippocampus and overall brain volume at a rate faster than non-smokers. This is one of the reasons why smokers experience premature cognitive decline.

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