Amongst the most widespread addiction that transcends age-groups and socioeconomic statuses, Smoking is the “drug of choice” from Corporates to businessman and students to working professionals,alike. The bioactive compound of smoking – Nicotine is a stimulant and depressant and is a very mild (yes, mild) psychostimulant.
A common dictum with the medical fraternity is, “Smoking does not calm the nerves, it destroys it.” This is especially true in smokers who also do not consume a balanced diet and are prone to alcoholism. Smoking one cigarette is reducing equivalent to the amount of Vitamin C present in one orange! When vitamin C is reduced in the body, we see decreased immunity, withering nails and hair and wrinkled skin – All of which constitute a poor physical hygiene state and with the increased need to inhale smoke, we also become a victim of poor psychological hygiene. The thought of not smoking a cigarette is enough to trigger a panic attack, so much that smoking more number of cigarettes becomes a need.
While smokers swear by the calming and increased focusing abilities of Nicotine, the same (and even) better levels of focusing abilities have been found in caffeine and tea drinkers. The only difference is the amount of time it takes to achieve this level of cognition. Smokers experience an immense rush of Nicotine as soon as they inhale the fourth drag. When Nicotine reaches through the lungs and into the pleasure center of the brain it leaves behind a sense of calm and relaxation feeling. This is attributed to the biochemistry of Nicotine, which binds to a particular set of receptors that acetylcholine also binds to at different function systems of the body. (Central Nervous system, Musculoskeletal systems and others).
The problem with smoking is Nicotine is like a “Little-Monster” that makes you want more of the drug, so that you feel its “Calming” effects. A common problem with smokers is that they feel guilty while smoking, but want more of the drug when they aren’t. Smoking only feeds this “little monster” that shouldn’t have existed in the first place and in their quest to keep receiving the same “Hit”, smokers continue smoking and smoke even more in the long-term to overcome tolerance of these receptors.
Cigarettes, also known as “Cancer-sticks” are storehouses of Carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) at the Urinary Bladder, Lung and impair the mental homeostasis of its users. Smoking a single cigarette has been measured to stress your heart to the same extent that a Heart attack does, and this lasts for 20 minutes after smoking the cigarette. The other substances which include tar, can affect the lining of your lungs, almost irreversibly. This process is known to hamper the lung’s capacity to oxygenate the blood. (Lung receive deoxygenated blood and saturated it with inhaled oxygen so that it can go to different parts of the body). Further, the constant release of “Feel Good” chemicals in the Brain can alter emotional states due to deprivation of these chemicals and precipitate a feeling of “Burn-out”.
Studies have shown the debilitating effects of Carbon-Monoxide (a component of Cigarette smoke) to retard the formation of newer neurons, which is essential for learning new skills and to improve cognition. Smokers, with constant exposure to CO, hamper their neuronal regeneration and functional abilities. The constant shivering and tremors, can also reduce a person’s self-confidence. The stimulation of the “reward pathways” in our brains with just a few puffs can make smoking a very addictive habit and its easy availability only worsens cravings further. When smoking continues for more than a few years, blood vessels start to become less pliable and this results in hypertension all over the body. Blood-supply to critical brain centers associated with memory and cognition is markedly reduced resulting in memory loss and dementia-like symptoms.
Smoking is a habit that’s best avoided.