Effects of Smoking on Brain: Things You Need to Know

According to CDC, about half a million Americans die prematurely each year due to smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Apart from death rates, tobacco use can increase the risk for heart disease, lung disease, cancer, stroke, and many other health conditions. Smoking also harms your brain.

In this blog, you can find the effects of smoking on the brain along with the benefits of quitting.

Impact of nicotine on your brain

Most people understand the impact of smoking on the heart and lungs, but its impact on the brain is lesser-known to people.

Nicotine also mimics several neurotransmitters that send signals to the brain. It is similar in shape to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that signals the increases in the brain. Nicotine also activates the dopamine signals that create a pleasurable sensation. The brain begins to compensate for the increased signaling activity by reducing the number of acetylcholine.

Nicotine also stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain and mimics dopamine. Your brains start to associate nicotine use while feeling good. Nicotine in cigarettes changes your brain. It leads to withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. If this happens, you might experience effects including strong craving for nicotine, irritability, and anxiety.

Unfortunately, if symptoms strike, many people try to reach for other cigarettes to ease the effects of withdrawal.

Below are few common side effects of nicotine and smoking on the brain:

Cognitive decline 

It happens naturally when you start getting older. You may also become more forgetful or may not be able to think as quickly as you did when you were younger. If you smoke, you may experience faster cognitive decline than non-smokers.

Increase in risk of dementia

People who smoke often have an increased risk of dementia. It is a condition that affects behavior, judgment, language skills, thinking abilities, and memory. It may also cause personality changes.

Loss of brain volume

The longer you smoke, the higher you are at the risk of greater age-related brain volume loss. A 2017 study suggests that smoking can negatively affect the structural integrity of subcortical brain regions. It also shows that smokers compared to non-smokers had higher amounts of age-related brain volume loss in several areas of the brain.

High risk of stroke

Smokers are likely to suffer from a stroke than non-smokers. Data by CDC show that smoking increases the risk of a stroke by two to four times in both women and men. The risk also increases if you smoke a higher number of cigarettes.

Increases the risk of cancer

Smoking induces many toxic chemicals into the body and brain. These chemicals can cause cancer. Repeated exposure to tobacco, genetic changes in the brain, throat, or lungs may increase the risk of developing cancer.

Are e-cigarettes good?

Even though the research on an e-cigarette is not apt, we know so far that it can impact negatively on your brain and overall health.

National Institute on Drug Abuse states that e-cigarettes that contain nicotine are likely to produce similar changes in the brain as cigarettes.

Can quitting help?

Quitting nicotine can benefit your brain along with other parts of your body. Smokers who quit for a prolonged period benefited from a reduced risk of dementia. Quitting tobacco can also create positive structural changes to the brain’s cortex, even though the process could be longer.

In addition to the positive changes to brain health, quitting smoking can also benefit the rest of your body in many ways. Here are some of the possible changes:

  • Reduce the stroke risk to that of a nonsmoker within 5 to 15 years
  • Cut your risk of a heart attack by 50 percent within a year
  • Improve the lung function and circulation within three months
  • Reduce the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood to a normal range within 12 hours
  • Slow down your heart rate just 20 minutes after your last cigarette

How to quit cigarette

Quitting smoking could be tough, but it is a possible thing. Here are few steps you can take to lead a tobacco-free life:

Learn relaxation techniques

You must relax, and should be able to deal with stress as it may help you to get through the challenges of quitting. Few helpful techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and diaphragmatic breathing.

Nicotine replacement therapies

You can find a variety of medications and nicotine replacement therapies that will assist you well with quitting. Some over-the-counter products include lozenges, patches, gum, and nicotine.

Seek your doctor advise

Your healthcare provider will you the best advice if you want to quit smoking. The reason is quitting smoking often results in a variety of withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor can work with you to create a solid plan that includes a way to deal with symptoms and cravings.

Counseling support

Group or individual counseling can help you to get support to deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It also helps when you know other people are dealing with the same challenges as you.


Smoking is the leading cause of death in the United States alone. Heart disease, lung disease, stroke, cancer, and decline in brain health are all linked to smoking.

On the bright side, with time, quitting smoking can help reverse many negative effects of smoking.

Want to know more about smoking and its effects? Stay tuned to the Wise Rx Discount Card blog for the latest updates!


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