How Does Smoking Affect the Brain?

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Smoking has profound psychological effects on the brain, including addiction and a utility for a smoker to change their moods internally. Find out how smokers use smoking as a crutch to get them through the day with help from a pulmonary disease research expert in this free video on the effects of smoking.

Part of the Video Series: Effects of Smoking
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Video Transcript

Hello, I am Dr. David Burns, I'm a professor emeritus at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Cigarette smoking has very profound psychological affects. The core of the addiction for cigarette smoking is both physiologic and psychological. Cigarette smoking provides great utility for the smoker. It allows them to change their mood internally, makes them feel better when they're sad, makes them gear up when they are tired, let's them calm down when they're excited. Helps them relieve boredom. So it becomes a crutch that helps them get through in the day to day life. That's an important part of the addiction of cigarette smoking. An additional important part is the affect that nicotine has on the brain. When you're ingesting nicotine on a regular basis, what happens is you increase the number of nicotine receptors in your brain. What then happens is if you don't have the nicotine to fill up those receptors, you don't feel normal. You feel as though you're not quite right. You feel irritable, you feel you have difficultly concentrating and all of those factors OK, lead to a feeling of withdrawal or a feeling that you need or crave the nicotine in order to feel right. And that's a powerful demonstration of the role of nicotine in addiction.

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