The Nicotine Addiction Story
From joyinca from Quitnet on 2/23/2005
N icotine is probably the most addictive of all drugs we know of. The addiction process is very complicated, with dopamine receptors, neurotransmitters, etc. This illustration is an oversimplification of the process, but helps smokers to understand the reason for the difficulty in quitting.
Imagine that you have a factory in your brain which makes acetylcholine (you really do, but it doesn't quite work this way.) The acetylcholine workers work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no breaks, no vacations, no union representation. Acetylcholine is an essential part of our nervous system and without it we could no function very well (ask a smoker who is trying to quit how they feel and you will know how acetylcholine works.)
These factory workers work day and night and produce as much acetylcholine as the body needs. That amount is determined by the foreman who does continual blood testing to make sure there is an adequate amount available. After about 10 or 12 years you decided to try a little tobacco (either smokeless or smoking.) In 7 seconds the nicotine is in the brain and the foreman cannot tell the difference between acetylcholine and nicotine. He announces to everyone, "I don't know what is going on, but there is plenty of acetylcholine available. It looks like you can take a break."
The factory workers go out on the lawn, in the sunshine and have a glorious time. They are only out there about 30 minutes and the foreman calls them back in. He tells them that the acetyl choline levels have dropped and they will have to resume production.
The factory workers continue to work 24 hours a day, but they also remember how nice it was out on the lawn. You decided to have another cigarette. The foreman hardly gets the words out of his mouth and the factory workers are all out on the lawn. Again because the half-life of nicotine is just one half hour, they are soon called back in. You try tobacco again, with their encouragement — and again — and again.
Pretty soon you are smoking quite regularly and the factory workers are on the lawn most of the time, having a wonderful time. So you become fully hooked and smoke on a regular basis. The factory foreman tells the workers, "You haven't been needed for quite some time. Why don't you go on vacation. I'll call you if you are needed."
So they take off to the Caribbean. They are there for many years.
Finally you decide you've got to quit smoking. You stop.
The foreman checks the blood levels and panics. He starts trying to round everybody up, by sending letters and telegrams and making phone calls. The factory workers have to say goodbye to all their friends, find their cool-weather clothes, make airline reservations and prepare to leave. They are not happy and they let the foreman know that. He passes that information on to you and you give in and start smoking again.
One day you finally make it. You quit.
It takes one month for the factory workers to get home and start working again — but they never forget the Caribbean.