In the last tutorial we explored how nicotine dramatically alters the brain’s physiology and causes addiction. The end result paints a pretty depressing picture.
Fortunately, there is an absolute certainty that smokers can regain the health of their brain. The very same physiological processes that allow smokers to become addicted, also allow smokers to successfully recover. What’s more, these processes can be invoked and practiced by the user through progressive treatments.
The first of these processes is down-regulation, the reverse effect of up-regulation.
While up-regulation increases the number of nicotine receptors in the brain, down-regulation decreases it. This means the chemical dependency to nicotine weakens as it receives less of it. Down-regulation begins as soon as you stop smoking, or even cut down the number of cigarettes you consume.
The process is also fundamental to Nicotine Replacement Therapy, which progressively weakens the chemical dependency over time.
Once the chemical dependency to nicotine is broken, the addict can begin to invoke the second and most influential process to long term healing, brain plasticity.
For a longtime, it was accepted by the scientific community the brain ceased development at a certain point in an individuals childhood or youth. It was also believed we had a fixed number of brain cells.
Developments in neuroscience over the last thirty years has debunked this idea and proven the human brain, is in fact, capable of neural development throughout adulthood. This neural development is referred to as a brain’s “plasticity.”
In the last tutorial, we explored how addiction to nicotine results in the “hijacking” of neural networks by neurons and neural pathways connected to the act of smoking and nicotine abuse. This process is due to the brains plasticity. Put simply, plasticity is the ability of the brain to create neurons, neural networks and neural pathways. It is most commonly observed in the area of the brain that involves memory.
I also mentioned in the last tutorial, the neural pathways related to smoking strengthen with the constant behavior of smoking cigarettes. Thankfully, these same pathways weaken when not in use.
Over time, the neurons physically metabolize (break down) and allow new neurons and neural pathways to develop. Unlike down regulation and chemical dependency, this process takes a lot longer to play out and requires a commitment to long term treatment. (There are billions of neurons in your brain.)
If a smoker can commit to the healing process, the individual will stop desiring cigarettes and return to a state of normality.
To see plasticity in action, be sure to check out the below you tube clip!
So there we are! Hopefully you have a clearer understanding of nicotine addiction and can now believe with confidence, if you quit smoking and seek treatment for your disease, a time will come that YOU DO NOT MISS cigarettes!