quit smoking support @ woofmang.com
people helping people beat the addiction to nicotine
 
help support our communityDonate FAQFAQ SearchSearch RSS FeedRSS Feed MemberlistMemberlist RegisterRegister ProfileProfile Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages Log inLog in

Rewards, Nicotine, and the Brain
Goto page 1, 2  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    quit smoking support @ woofmang.com Forum Index > continuing the journey to wellness
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
shevie



Quit Date:
May 23, 2005

Posts: 413
Location: Grants Pass, OR, USA

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 1:51 AM    Post subject: Rewards, Nicotine, and the Brain Reply with quote

This is a post I made almost a year ago on another site. A lot of people seemed to benefit from it there, so I'm hoping it will help someone here, too. It skips nicotine's effect on acetylcholine and cuts right to the addiction mechanism that is triggered by that effect.

There have been some questions concerning rewards lately. I've been doing research (actually, more like rooting around) into the neuropharmacological aspects of nicotine addiction and thought I'd share a bit here. It's a bit long so if you want the bottom line, just skip to the colored part and start there.

When you experience something pleasurable, certain areas of your brain called reward centers activate by releasing dopamine. The presence of dopamine is what causes the pleasurable feeling, the enjoyment, the “ahhh”.

Smoking causes an increase in the dopamine levels. The actual mechanism is debated, but fMRI studies confirm the increase occurs. As you continue to smoke, the dopamine levels remain high and the brain starts shutting down some of the reward centers in an attempt to return to normal. This causes the smoker to require more, which raises the dopamine levels, which causes the brain to shut down even more reward centers. A balance is eventually reached, typically at the point of a pack per day (about 20 mg of nicotine). This also applies to users of chewing tobacco and snuff.

So now a balance has been reached. The nicotine has raised dopamine levels and the brain has shut down reward centers to compensate. Heroin and cocaine users also reach this maintenance level where the fix no longer causes pleasure, but simply maintains “normal”. When the dopamine level begins to drop (30 – 60 minutes after the last smoke) the smoker begins to feel “the need” and has another fix which re-establishes the dopamine levels.

When the smoker quits the levels of nicotine fall rapidly, as do the dopamine levels. After three to five days the nicotine is out of the system. The brain, however, does not recover as quickly. Without the constant smoking stimulus, dopamine levels are far below where they were. Since reward centers were long ago shut down to compensate for the increased dopamine levels caused by smoking, the (now) ex-smoker is operating at a “reward deficit”. As a result, the ex-smoker feels depressed, ill-tempered, and sad (cries a lot). Those who use sleep as an escape mechanism will tend to sleep much more.

Another effect of this “reward deficit” is that ordinary, everyday rewards don’t seem to work anymore. In reality, they do cause an increase in dopamine levels, but with so many reward centers deactivated the increase is barely noticeable, if it can be noticed at all. This is why we quitters need to reward ourselves often. The size of the reward isn’t important, the quantity is. Essentially, we need to exercise our reward centers to rebuild them, just like muscles need to be exercised after a long period of disuse.
The research I’ve dug into indicates it takes “several months” to “over a year” , (depending on who you read) for the brain to reactivate enough reward centers to approach the “normal” of never-smokers. Perhaps this is the root of the idea that you aren’t fully quit until you’ve experienced all the seasons. I suspect it is part of that idea. The other part is another topic.

So early in your quits, reward yourselves often. Little stuff is great. Window shopping, watching ducks at the park, special coffee after work, whatever. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just enjoyable. Think free weights for the brain.

Shevie
_________________

If you study something in the right light, how can there be any darkness? Dave Gardner

Quit date: May 23, 2005
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Deb



Quit Date:
February 5, 2010

Posts: 967
Location: North Carolina (Originally New York)

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 7:42 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shevie,

That was an interesting article and it really makes a lot of sense. I had no clue about Reward Centers, oh my, I can't wait till mine come back. Instead of a reward right now, I'd like to give myself a good swift kick in the A-- for picking up the smokes again and having to go through this all over again.

I really don't mind the mood swing stuff, it's the change that goes on with my body in the first few weeks. You know the canker sores, not being able to go to the bathroom, quit zits, weight gain, you know, all that good stuff....... Crying or Very sad I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully I won't experience all of these glorious things this time around. It's way too early for the canker sores and zits but, the other has already kicked in. Embarassed

I do have one thing in my favor though, I've lost about 24 pounds prior to this quit it was unintentional but certainly needed. It was due to crap that was going on and, 10 of that 24 was what I had gained my last quit so, if I gain 10 back now I am in a win win situation. Very Happy

Enough wining, I'm glad to be free of the smokes once again. All of the changes that I mentioned above are far better than putting poison in my body and, I know that after about a month or so it levels itself out. Very Happy

Thank's for posting this info and I will reward myself as I truly had no clue of how important it was. In the past, I never really paid much attention to the reward process but, now, thanks to you I think I'll start my rewards a littlle earlier. Laughing

Thank's for sharing this info Shevie, it really explains the roller coaster ride.

Deb
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Mary Dude



Quit Date:
June 15, 2004

Posts: 4803
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 7:46 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow...a scientific explanation for why I don't want to stop 'treating' myself to a monthly pedicure...that was my first 'reward' the day after I quit smoking...and every month since then usually around my lunaversry and now...I have some really cute toes!
_________________

Mary D.
Smoke-free one day at a time!
Worry doesn't help tomorrow's troubles, but it does ruin today's happiness!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Lori



Quit Date:
March 18, 2006

Posts: 521
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 8:51 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mary "Cute Toes" Dude, you are too funny!!

Shevie, thanks for that post -- it was fascinating!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
jrduffis



Quit Date:
February 13, 2005

Posts: 43
Location: Randleman, NC

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 9:09 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the read Shevie. I walked around this on the other joint and never read it. This is so outstanding and explains a lot of the brains reaction to nicotine. The reward sensors are going wide open during withdrawl so no wonder we are always wnating something, food, drink or the nasty one a smoke. Understanding the quit process and your explanation of the reward system should help a lot of people save their quits.

I will find Roxanne and let her know that she owes me at least 18 big rewards to start with. Laughing Demon

Thanks again Bob
_________________

JR
I'd rather be over the hill than under it
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
kevin
Site Admin


Quit Date:
November 19, 2001

Posts: 9538
Location: cincinnati, oh

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 9:34 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for posting this, shevie; it's an interesting (and well-written) read. Smile
_________________

keep choosing life!

kevin

the quit guru
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
swaneem



Quit Date:
-

Posts: 1298
Location: Arizona

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 9:45 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing this....makes a lot of sense to me!

Donna
_________________

Just when the caterpillar thought his world was
coming to an end..........God made him a
BUTTERFLY.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Pamela



Quit Date:
-

Posts: 3542
Location: Gardiner, NY

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 10:57 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Shevie! Finally, a scientific explanation for eating more CAKE!
_________________

FIVE + years of freedom and loving it!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Free



Quit Date:
May 12, 2006

Posts: 826
Location: USA

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 12:05 PM    Post subject: Reply with quote

This post really helped me in my quit. Once I figured out what my rewards were going to be, reward time was ON!

Now, 3 months later, I realize that I did not reward myself enough when I was a smoker. I didn't have time ... I was smoking. Now rewards are a part of my everyday activities. Little things like: gourmet coffee, exercising, a movie rental, a new plant for my garden, etc.
_________________

Become addicted to constant and never ending self improvement.

The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.

Realize that true happiness lies within you.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Barbara K.



Quit Date:
December 23, 2004

Posts: 5977

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 5:47 PM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Thanks Shevie,

I love your examples of rewards also.

Blessings,
_________________

Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn arouind and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Blessings,
Barbara K.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Rusty



Quit Date:
December 13, 2004

Posts: 497
Location: North Florida

PostPosted: August 22, 2006 8:13 PM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Shevie, I can never read this too many times...you know I'm the Queen of Rewards! I just love 'em! Thanks for bringing this along with you,

Rusty Very Happy
_________________

The Buddha says: Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger
marw



Quit Date:
-

Posts: 3634
Location: Chicago, IL

PostPosted: August 23, 2006 3:53 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shevie, I used to constantly preach to people about giving themselves enough rewards. But I didn't know until now why I thought it was so important. I just knew it was. It was how I did my own quit. So MANY THANKS for posting this! I know it will help many. And it is also very interesting and well-written! Cool Very Happy

P.S. I couldn't think why I was spending so much time in Victoria's Secret this week, until I read this....that was where I constantly shopped during the first month of my quit....and apparently when I had phantom urges this week, I just went right back there! Laughing Laughing
_________________

Margaret
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
texas2step



Quit Date:
-

Posts: 793
Location: Texas

PostPosted: October 24, 2006 9:12 AM    Post subject: Very timely for me thanks! Reply with quote

Just when I was thinking I have to watch out letting myself have too many food rewards (and spreading the lower regions across my chair wider) I remembered what I use so often during each week to reward my brain... my little quit meter on my computer that tells me how much money and life I've saved. Course it's good that I'm saving days of life but somehow seeing those dollars add up that I am no longer burning and wasting sure bring a huge smile to my face....

Thanks for having this discussion at just the right time.... I bet if we kept track of when urges came they would coincide exactly with need for more dopamine or whatever. Food for thought.

Happy day all
Texas
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
BlueEyes



Quit Date:
October 29, 2006

Posts: 24

PostPosted: December 27, 2006 3:59 PM    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Understanding the quit process and your explanation of the reward system should help a lot of people save their quits. "

I so agree and this article was super and the best one I have read of the nicotine/dopamine relationship. Also, why Zyban (creates dopamine) works so well with quitting!

Huge thanks.

Julie
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Barbara K.



Quit Date:
December 23, 2004

Posts: 5977

PostPosted: January 1, 2007 8:20 AM    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy I just re-read this. I still reward myself.
_________________

Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn arouind and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Blessings,
Barbara K.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    quit smoking support @ woofmang.com Forum Index > continuing the journey to wellness All times are GMT - 4 Hours
Goto page 1, 2  Next
Page 1 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

quit smoking support
woofmang dot com