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(12) Quit Smoking

What are the psychological effects of nicotine?

In the brain, nicotine acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which in turn act as neuromodulators that affect the actions of many other neurotransmitters. These include: acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.

The psychological effects of these various neurotransmitters include improved attention, concentration, learning and memory, in addition to enhanced pleasure, diminished pain response, and decreased anxiety.

Thus, nicotine offers a seeming paradox that cannot be duplicated by any other drug available. This paradox is a relaxed alertness, which only further adds to its appeal as a drug. It appears that smokers also can modify one effect over the other by changing the way they inhale.

Studies have shown that smokers who wish to achieve a stimulating effect take short quick puffs, which produce a low level of blood nicotine thereby stimulating nerve transmission.

Additionally, it appears that at low doses, nicotine modulates the actions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This further enhances attention and concentration in a manner similar to traditional stimulants. At higher doses, nicotine also modulates the effects of serotonin opiate activity, which produces a relaxed, calming effect.

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