If you smoke, no one needs to tell you how bad it is. So why haven't you quit? Why hasn't everyone?
Because smoking feels good. It stimulates and focuses the mind at the same time that it soothes and satisfies.
The concentrated dose of nicotine in a drag off a cigarette triggers an immediate flood of dopamine and otherneurochemicals that wash over the brain's pleasure centers.Inhaling tobacco smoke is the quickest, most efficientway to get nicotine to the brain.
"I completely understand why you wouldn't want to give it up," said Dr. David Abrams, an addictionresearcher at the National Institutes of Health. "It's more difficult to get off nicotine than heroin or cocaine."
Smoking "hijacks" the reward systems in the brain that drive you to seek food, water and sex, Dr. Abramsexplained, driving you to seek nicotine with the same urgency."Your brain thinks that this has to do with survivalof the species," he said.
Nicotine isn't equally addictive for everyone. A lot of people do not smoke because they never liked it to beginwith. Then there are "chippers", who smoke occasionally but never seem to get hooked. But most people whosmoke will eventually do it all day, every day.
New discoveries in genetics may explain why certain people take to smoking with such gusto and end up soaddicted. Some people, for instance, produce a gene-encoded enzyme that clears nicotine from their bloodstreamsrapidly, so they tend to smoke more and develop stronger addictions.Others possess special receptors in the brainthat bond extra tightly with nicotine, giving them an especially intense high that makes it harder to quit.
Drug makers are exploiting the science of addiction to create novel treatments to help smokers quit.