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Mary Ella’s Weekly Message
September 17, 2010
By now, you probably know that it’s the nicotine in cigarettes that causes the addiction. But do you know how nicotine affects your brain?
There are areas deep within the brain that are involved in addiction, which we refer to in our section on the physical aspects of The Three Link Chain of Addiction. Scientists believe that there are two systems at work: the one that we’ll focus on today is called the reward pathway. When a smoker has a cigarette, it triggers the brain to release a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which results in pleasurable feelings.
When your brain releases dopamine, it causes a strong euphoric reaction—as in, "I feel GOOD!” And because this stimulation in your brain feels so good, it is understandable that smokers would continue repeating this behavior over and over in order to get that feeling back.
Nicotine’s effects only last from about 40 minutes to a couple of hours. That’s why smokers will have a cigarette at least a few times a day in order to get nicotine into their systems. Add this to the fact that people can become tolerant of nicotine’s effects (which means smokers need to use more and more nicotine to reach the same degree of “I feel GOOD!”) it makes sense that people can start with one cigarette a day and end up smoking a pack a day or more.
The American Lung Association recommends the FDA-approved medications for smokers who are trying to quit, because it helps wean the brain off of its addiction to nicotine. Studies have proven that people who use FDA-approved medications to quit smoking along with a behavior modification program, such as FFS Online, may double or possibly triple their quit rate (which we refer to in the lesson, Using Medications and Building Confidence in the Program). Nicotine replacement medications deliver nicotine in measured amounts to the brain, and more slowly than cigarettes. Prescription medications that do not have nicotine in them, such as Zyban®, work on the chemicals in your brain in a way that helps replace nicotine cravings. Both kinds of medications, along with the tools in Freedom From Smoking® Online, help smokers teach their brains (and bodies) to learn ways to feel “GOOD!” without smoking cigarettes.
Many people who have been highly addicted to nicotine have quit with this program, and you can too! Keep the three “rules” in mind as you progress on your smokefree journey:
- Read all of the lessons in every module. Pace yourself. We recommend reading a lesson every other day until you have worked through the entire program.
- Complete all of the suggested activities. You may think that an activity doesn’t relate to you or that it won’t be helpful. Skipping one is only cheating yourself.
- Give and receive support on the Message Boards. If you only lurk there, you won’t receive the full benefit of giving someone else a helping hand when they need it.
This week, focus on the three rules and remember to try and get eight 8-oz. glasses of water in your system everyday.
I’ll see you on the Message Boards! :-) Mary Ella
Don’t forget: If you’re in the Premium program and want help fast on the Message Boards, put “HELP NOW” in the subject line of your post. If you’re looking to offer help, watch for those, “HELP NOW” posts and alert your other FFS Online buddies to offer some assistance as well.