The purpose of this article is to expose the harmful effects of tobacco and the dangers of tobacco on the human body.
Other tobacco products, such as cigars and cigarillos, or the use of a water pipe, snuff and chewing tobacco, contain nicotine, an addictive drug. The aspirated smoke circulates in the human body and touches almost every organ. This is why smoking affects both the health and well-being of smokers. Smoke also affects the health of non-smokers who are exposed to it.
I – Description of the Various Harmful Effects of Tobacco
* loss of respiratory function,
* bronchial secretions,
* increased sensitivity of the lungs to other pollutants,
* chronic burns to the lips and tongue,
* destruction of the taste buds,
* decreased defenses against microbial infections,
* chronic irritation,
* precancerous and cancerous lesions of the larynx,
* accelerated heart rate,
* increase in systemic blood pressure.
How many chemicals and toxins are there in cigarettes? The cigarette and its smoke contain nearly 4000 chemicals and toxic. A certain number of substances present or produced secondarily by the combustion of tobacco can cross the membrane which separates the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid in which bathes the brain. In the short term, this causes some brain excitation and sometimes headaches.
In addition, due to the different chemical agents, the brain partially cuts the appetite and that is why people sometimes gain weight when they quit smoking: the appetite becomes normal and the tendency to eat is more present. In the long term, it is the arteries of the brain that gradually fade and become clogged. These alterations are sources of cerebrovascular accidents, which are generally characterized by disorders of consciousness, speech, the senses, and various vertigo or paralysis. It is, therefore, the whole body that is attacked by the products and derivatives of the cigarette.
II – Harmful Effects of Tobacco on the Brain
By its action on the nervous system and the chemical and biological changes it causes in the brain, nicotine is the main cause of tobacco addiction. It is also at the top of the list at the level of unpleasant, harmful effects of tobacco. Unfortunately, the body gets used to it very quickly and these inconveniences disappear quickly, giving way to an addiction at least as strong as heroin addiction. If we enter the more scientific and neurobiological part, here is how nicotine acts on the functioning of the brain.
Nicotine mimics the action of acetylcholine and binds to a particular type of its receptors called the nicotine receptor. It’s a bit like a key system, nicotine is a very similar key to acetylcholine so it can enter the lock, block access and trigger a reaction. By attaching to the receptor, the nicotine triggers a reaction that would probably not happen if there was no cigarette consumption.
Once in the blood, nicotine immediately stimulates the adrenal glands that release the hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.
Like other addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin, nicotine increases the levels of dopamine neurotransmitters, which affect the reward and pleasure circuits of the brain. For many people who use tobacco, long-term changes in the brain, induced by chronic exposure to nicotine, are addictive – a disease characterized by research and use of compulsive drugs despite the negative consequences that this entails.
Nicotine modifies brain function, acting specifically on cholinergic nicotine receptors that are part of the reward circuit, releasing dopamine, the neurotransmitter of motivation and reward. In addition, this is done very quickly, between 10 and 15 seconds only it is transported from the lungs to its receptors by the bloodstream. In fact, the fastest way to bring a substance to the brain is to smoke it, which results in much greater harmful effects of tobacco of conditioned conditioning. Tobacco is the drug with the highest risk of addiction by testing it only once (32%).
It is this state of desensitization that will be artificially lengthened by continued exposure to nicotine. Tobacco addiction, which is developing very rapidly, comes from the fact that nicotine receptors are present in very “busy” areas of the brain. Repeated nicotine stimulation in smokers, therefore, increases the release of dopamine in certain parts of the brain (Accubens nucleus). When the smoker is deprived of nicotine (for example at night), the receptors regain their normal sensitivity and the smoker feels agitation and discomfort that pushes him to smoke; these are actually signs of withdrawal syndrome.
III – Tobacco and Mental Illness
Smoking is higher in people with mental illness. By the way, nearly 80% of people with schizophrenia smoke.
The previous paragraph explains this great consumption. Dopamine very often plays a role in mental disorders and its increase is linked, among other things, to the presence of nicotine. The temporary well-being provided by nicotine is enough to create a kind of double addiction in people with the disease. There is physical dependence, as for regular smokers, and this addiction is more related to the overabundance of dopamine.
The cigarette becomes a particularly effective sedative for them. On the other hand, if you remove the cigarette, the signs of lack may be more obvious and more present and that is why stopping is more difficult.
IV – Harmful Effects of Tobacco of Second-Hand Smoke
Second-hand smoke is the addition of the smoke that emanates from the cigarette that is consumed and that exhaled by the smoker. Of the toxins, it contains, 50 are known to be carcinogenic and are more concentrated in second-hand smoke than in the smoke smoked by smokers. Second-hand smoke contains nearly 3 times more tar, 5 times more carbon monoxide, 6 times more nicotine, and 40 times more ammonia. Non-smokers working in a smoke-saturated environment inhale the same toxic substances as smokers.
Children, due to their higher metabolism, can absorb a greater amount of smoke than adults. Infants and children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer from chronic respiratory disease, impaired lung function, middle ear infections, and food allergies. They may even be victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
V – Did You Know?
* A person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day absorbs the equivalent of a cup of tar a year.
* Tobacco is responsible for a decrease in sexual performance.
* Tobacco is responsible for a decrease in fertility in women.
* Smoky women’s skin is dry, dull, and her complexion is cloudy. The skin loses its suppleness and therefore has premature aging.
VI – Harmful Effects of Tobacco on the Human Body
1 – Smoking Accelerates the Process of Brain Aging
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, in a study published in Molecular Psychiatry Journal in November 2015, uncovered a direct link between tobacco and memory impairment.
The researchers analyzed the scans of 500 people on average 73 years old. Smokers had a much thinner cerebral cortex than non-smokers or even people who had quit smoking. And the longer patients quit smoking, the thicker their cortex was.
Under the action of aging, the outer layers of our brain tend to erode over time. However, according to scientists, this process would be greatly accelerated in smokers. The affected areas are in the area of the cerebral cortex that manages the subject’s memory, attention, and concentration.
The results of the study also show that as soon as you stop smoking, the benefits are immediate on the cerebral cortex. According to doctors, the tissue healing process could be visible a few weeks after stopping. However, they point out that this is a very long process and it takes about 25 years for the cerebral cortex to thicken to a normal level depending on age.
The research is part of a larger British project to study the brain called The Disconnected Mind.
This study gives hope that smoking cessation, even in middle age, brings great benefits to the brain.
2 – Smoking Damages the Brain
According to a study conducted by researchers at the Charity Faculty of Medicine at the University of Humboldt (Germany), published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2010, smokers suffer from thinning of the orbitofrontal cortex.
More specifically, the experiments show that the longer a person smokes cigarettes each day, the longer they smoke, the more cerebral cortex is thin in this region. Thinning of the cerebral cortex has been associated with aging and reduced intelligence.
In addition, since the orbital-frontal cortex has been associated with impulse control, reward, and decision-making, thinning may increase the risk of addiction. As a result, smoking has a cumulative effect on the brain, making it increasingly difficult for chronic smokers to quit.
3 – Smoking Damages the Brain’s Abilities
Researchers at King’s College London, in a study published in the November 2012 issue of Age and Ageing, found that smoking contributed to a decline in cognitive function.
Scientists have drawn these conclusions from research investigating the links between the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke and the condition of the brain. They discovered that high blood pressure and overweight also seemed to affect the brain.
For this, they followed the weight and blood pressure of 8800 people over 50 years old. Researchers also asked patients to do memory exercises, such as remembering a number of words, or exercises of intellectual alertness, such as naming a maximum of animals in one minute. These tests were repeated four years and eight years after the start of the study.
According to their findings, the researchers noted that a high risk of cardiovascular disease was directly associated with an accelerated decline in cognitive functioning, especially in people who did not have a healthy lifestyle. In addition, the study also says that smokers have performed worse on memory tests.
Lack of sports activity, poor diet, if researchers establish a direct link between poor lifestyle and brain performance, they explain that smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease which in turn promotes cognitive decline. Thus, smoking indirectly damages the brain.
4 – Active and Passive Smoking Associated with Lack of Memory
According to a study conducted by an English team from Northumbria University in Newcastle, published in the journal Addiction 2012, smokers, active or passive, have more difficulty remembering current activities than those who are not exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco.
The team gathered 27 smokers, 24 people regularly exposed to second-hand smoke and 28 people who never had this exposure, whether direct or secondary. All were between 18 and 30 years old.
The authors evaluated them with the Cambridge Prospective Memory Test, which includes temporary exercises, such as handing a key to researchers when there are only seven minutes left, and situational exercises, such as handing over the key when listening to a word.
Each participant received points in return for his performance, based on the number of reminders used. Scores ranged from zero to 18 points per test; the higher the score, the higher the memory.
In the temporary exercises, the team detected a statistically significant difference between the groups: the participants without exposure to tobacco smoke obtained 16.3 points, while the passive smokers reached 13.7 points and the active smokers got 11.6 points.
In the situation tests, the non-exposed participants again overtook the active smokers, but not so much to the passive ones.
5 – Smoking in Adolescence Affects the Size of the Brain
A study conducted by scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in March 2014, shows the dramatic differences that tobacco causes in adolescent brain development.
In particular, the team found significant differences in brain regions between adolescent smokers and non-smokers, even when addiction was not too severe. Research has shown that smoking during adolescence can lead to changes in the insula, which vary in size and volume in different groups of young people. The insular cortex of the smoker is less developed than that of the non-smoker.
Located on the lateral surface of the brain, the insula is linked to the limbic system and plays an important role in the control of emotions and feelings. Changes in this brain structure caused by tobacco directly affect the direct control of adolescents’ internal state or decision-making.
After studying the medical records of 42 young people aged 16 to 22, the researchers found that the thickness of the smoker’s insula was much thinner than that of nonsmokers. They also found that the more the subject smoked each day, the thinner the thickness.
Scientists suggest that brain changes caused by smoking among youth may explain why adolescent smokers develop a deeper addiction to tobacco than adults who smoke later. Nicotine decreases their decision-making ability, and their brains are less aware of the addictive state in which they find themselves. In this age group, where drugs have an even more acute effect on the brains of individuals, the action of cigarettes and nicotine is even worse than in adults.
At such a sensitive age, the harmful effects of tobacco. can radically alter the brain development of young people and significantly affect their personality. Studies such as this one undoubtedly remind us of the importance of preventing the use of socially accepted drugs, because of the medium-term medical implications.
6 – The Direct Relationship Between Smoking and Chronic Back Pain
In a study of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, published in the November 2014 issue of Human Brain Mapping, it is stated that smokers may be three times more likely to develop chronic back pain than non-smokers smoking. At the same time, giving up this habit could greatly reduce these probabilities.
The relationship between smoking and the increased risk of low back pain or other chronic pain-related conditions has been studied for years. Also, other research has already indicated that quitting reduces pain. But this is the first time that smoking and chronic pain are linked to the part of the brain associated with addiction and reward.
The researchers say that smoking could affect the brain’s response to back pain and make smokers less resistant to pain episodes.
The results come from a longitudinal study of 160 adults with new cases of back pain. Over the course of one year, they underwent five brain examinations and were asked to rate the intensity of their back pain and to complete a questionnaire in which they were asked about smoking and other health problems. With adults with back pain, 35 healthy control participants and 32 participants with chronic low back pain were similarly controlled.
Scientists analyzed the activity of two areas of the brain – the Accumbens nucleus and the medial prefrontal cortex – that are involved in addictive behavior and motivated learning. They found that this circuit is also fundamental in the development of chronic pain.
Apparently, these two areas of the brain are “talking to each other” and the strength of this connection would help determine who will develop chronic pain. In the case of smokers, this connection was found to be very strong and active in the brain, and it dropped dramatically in those who quit smoking in the year of the experiment. As a result, the sensitivity to developing chronic pain has decreased.
By showing how part of the brain involved in motivated learning allows tobacco dependence to interact with chronic pain, the results point to a potentially more general link between addiction and pain.
When administered with anti-inflammatory drugs, the researchers found that even though the drugs helped control the pain, they could not change the activity of the brain circuits. According to the scientists, future interventions should aim to manipulate the brain’s mechanisms as an effective strategy for the prevention and relief of chronic pain.
Tobacco, women and chronic pain. Although this study is the first to link the harmful effects of tobacco, chronic pain, and brain activity, it is not the first time that the direct link between smoking and pain is mentioned. In 2011, researchers at the University of Kentucky found that women with higher levels of tobacco dependence had higher rates of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Specifically, those who smoked daily were twice as likely to develop this pain.
As a Conclusion on the Harmful Effects of Tobacco
The problem of tobacco lies not only in the visible risks it brings, but also in medical problems that we do not see “a priori”, but that have medium and long-term consequences for health. The emergence of so popular e-cigarettes does not help either, as the latest research claims they are just as harmful as tobacco. Quitting smoking is the best way to reduce the risk of brain damage, dementia, and other diseases.
By the way, note that quitting smoking improves memory. The group of smokers remembers 59% of the activities, that of the ex-smokers remembers 74% of the subjects and those who never smoked of 81%.
Quitting smoking is known to have health benefits, but this study shows for the first time that it also improves cognitive function, researchers say. As we have already mentioned, exposure to second-hand smoke from so-called “passive smokers” has similar harmful effects of tobacco on the brain.
Prospective memory problems are not only annoying when a person forgets to meet friends, but can also have more serious consequences, such as not taking medication.