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Tobacco Addiction Brain Science
The development of nicotine dependency is related to a neurotransmitter chemical called acetylcholine. In the brain, acetylcholine transmits messages about breathing, heart rate, movement, memory, and alertness. Nerve cells have special receptors that bind with acetylcholine, allowing the messages to be passed from nerve cell to nerve cell.
Nicotine is chemically similar to acetylcholine, so it binds to the same receptors on the nerve cells. When both nicotine and acetylcholine are present, the receptors are overstimulated, which causes the brain to produce less acetylcholine to compensate. The result is that when a smoker stops smoking, and there is no nicotine in the body, levels of acetylcholine are also low.
Withdrawal symptoms are a product of this imbalance. The smoker is driven to get more nicotine to make the symptoms go away, and the cycle starts over again.
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