Is nicotine a stimulant or depressant?
Is nicotine a depressant? Many say it is, but the opposite is also true. But how can nicotine or smoking present stimulant and depressant effects?
Nicotine as a Stimulant
Nicotine interacts with receptors in the brain and other parts of the body, such as the cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Nicotine activates the same receptors in the brain that other addictive drugs do, causing a release of dopamine (a chemical that makes us feel good) in areas of the brain linked with pleasure. It is this dopamine release that makes people who are feeling down or anxious more prone use nicotine via smoking. However, because of this effect, it also has a reinforcing impact that leads to nicotine addiction.
This is where depressant elements of nicotine appear.
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Nicotine as a Depressant
As you enter the cycle of enabling your smoking habits to aid your mood and stress levels, you depend on an external driver (smoking) to boost dopamine, which communicates to the brain that it’s no longer required to produce as much naturally.
Mundane tasks such as sneezing or eating, even the feeling you get after cleaning your room, all engage a small amount of dopamine release. With the brain uninclined to release as much or any due to nicotine’s synthetic replacement, an individual can feel constantly dissatisfied, and depression can result.
According to a study conducted by the Clevland Clinic Hospital, which has been at the forefront of modern medicine for over 100 years, symptoms of Dopamine deficiency include;
- Lacking motivation, “the drive.”
- Feeling tired.
- Lack of concentration.
- Feeling moody or anxious.
- You don’t feel pleasure from previously enjoyable experiences.
- You’re depressed; you feel hopeless.
- You have a low sex drive.
- You have trouble sleeping or have disturbed sleep.
Can quitting nicotine make you depressed?
It’s true that smoking can decrease your dopamine levels, leading to depression, but can smoking cessation (quitting) cause depression?
Nicotine withdrawal is the predominant cause of depression after quitting smoking. Your brain becomes dependent on nicotine connecting to neurotransmitters and creating dopamine; there is a period where your levels must adjust. This often reflects the implications of depression.
As many use smoking as a means of escape or stress management, individuals find that without this medium, there is no way to facilitate elevated levels of frustration. This may provoke anxious behaviour, stress and anger.
Others may ask, ‘can nicotine relieve depression?’ the answer is that it cannot. While this may be a portion of a temporary solution, in the long run, you will feel the effects of a dopamine deficiency and may in fact be worse off.
Things you can do to combat depression after quitting cigarettes
Finding activities, practices and healthy habits to distract you and help restore your natural balance of dopamine is the key to quitting successfully.
It’s important to remember that if you’re thinking about quitting, you may not experience the effects of depression. Everyone’s experience with smoking cessation is different.
Eating a Healthy Diet
It’s probably something that you’ve heard from parents, teachers or self-proclaimed healthy eaters that you just feel happier when you eat healthily.
There has been so much recent development and momentum from this notion that an entire medical field has been officiated, Nutritional Psychiatry. Nutritional Psychiatry is a study of dietary interventions and their impact on mental health.
When an individual feels depressed, they are more susceptible to eating foods that are unhealthy or have zero nutrition benefits; these food are also known as ‘comfort foods’. Comfort food act like nicotine in that they release dopamine, slightly correcting how we feel. But this is only temporary, and in some addictive cases, it can worsen the situation.
Our brains depend on healthy foods to function accurately; we recommend reading this article by Healthline that outlines the elements of a healthy diet that will help combat experience with depression.
Regular exercise is a necessary component of depression management. Regular activity may assist people to live a better life and has been shown to have an antidepressant effect on depressive illnesses.
Exercise can boost the amount of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with mood control, sleep, sex drive, hunger, and other functions. Endorphins may be increased by exercise as well as help stabilise our moods after working out.
Immerse Yourself in Positive Stimulation
Find the hobbies that bring you happiness. One way to help re-engage your natural level of dopamine and to continue producing it naturally at a consistent level is to surround yourself with people, activities, and things that stimulate you and ultimately bring you happiness.
Look into participating in a team sport, find an interest group that has a similar mindset as you, find a support group that’s going to be there for you during this challenging stage in your life.
If you’re experiencing depression from your nicotine intake, we recommend looking into getting a ‘Quit Smoking Prescription’.
There are several methods to quit smoking, including medicines that have been approved by the Australian health authorities. According to national and international research, a mix of medications and behavioural support may be successful in assisting you in quitting for good.
If you’d like to know more, book a free quitting consult to speak with a doctor at any time.