Cigarette addiction is responsible for over four million deaths every year. The question most people ask is why don’t people just put down their cigarettes? Well, the answer to that often asked question is nicotine. Nicotine is a neurotransmitter that targets certain receptors in the brain. It is a chemical messenger that induces feelings of pleasure. When someone takes a hit off of a cigarette, they ingest the harmful chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious health threats. They only inhale these chemicals to get one thing and one thing only, nicotine.
Curing addiction becomes harder and harder with each puff of a cigarette one takes. When nicotine is consumed, it communicates with the brain and is absorbed into receptor molecules, Doctors for years have undergone hundreds of experimental studies on the human brain to help understand just how these chemicals neurologically affect the brain, and which sectors of the brain are affected. This goal has not yet been accomplished due to the large amounts of receptor cells in the brain. In a study performed at the California Institute of Technology performed by Andrew Tapper, Professor Allan Collins from the University of Colorado, Several colleagues, and Henry A. Lester, the Caltech University Bren Professor of Biology revealed that nicotine affects a small subunit of the brain called alpha four. This subunit of the brain increases levels of pleasure, response, sensitization, and increases tolerance of multiple doses of the drug nicotine.
Many people do not know what nicotine does inside the brain. Here’s how it works when the nicotine reacts with the cells in the brain. It creates nerve impulse that jump chemically across a gap between two different nerve cells. This action is called a synapse. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is used in this process and is used to affect specified receptors in the brain targeting post-synaptic nerve cells. After this process, the feel good brain messenger, dopamine, is released. This chemical is released into the brain creating an extreme high. The acetylcholine is then supposed to diminish the dopamine after completing its task. The drug disguises itself as acetylcholine causing the process of dopamine release to last for minutes rather than milliseconds.
In several lab studies performed on mice in the 1990’s, results concluded that nicotine also affects the subunits of the brain labeled beta two. Knowing how this drug affects many different subunits shows just how complicated it is to find a cure for addiction to this drug.