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How Smoking Effects Your Brain

Updated on December 18, 2013

Smoking not only affects your appearance but also affect s your major organs and their functioning. Since the brain has a property called plasticity, it is easily altered by the influences of the environment. An individual that smokes creates a harsh environment for the brain, greatly influencing and altering it from the outside in.


Perhaps the most obvious consequence of smoking on the brain is become addicted to a drug known as nicotine, which is found in tobacco. Addiction is the obsession with having the drug. It becomes a habit. You feel like you physically and mentally need nicotine. The brain makes you feel like you need it, giving you intense cravings.

Euphoria or Elation

The chemicals contained in tobacco products also play a role in the brain. Not just nicotine. These chemicals cause the neurotransmitters in the brain to produce chemicals that make you feel good, happy and elated. These chemicals that can make you feel joyous are known as opioids. Interestingly enough, the feelings these opioids cause in the brain are actually the same feelings that drugs such as morphine and heroin trigger. So smoking affects the brain just like heroin.


I’ve heard this from a couple family members who are smokers. They claim it helps them to relax, calming their nerves. They often turn to it when they are placed in stressful situations. However, as you smoke more and more, you build up a tolerance level. Eventually, the nicotine no longer helps you feel relaxed once you build up that tolerance level. You will actually need increasing levels of nicotine just to function at a level that you would normally function. Nicotine will begin to make you more stressed.

There are other chemicals to consider with cigarettes. A chemical known as acetaldehyde, is a byproduct of the smoke from cigarettes, play a role in this relaxing, soothing feelings. There is even carbon monoxide in cigarettes. This will make you feel sort of dull, like you’re in a stuffy room where there isn’t quite enough air. This kind of environment helps to release the tension that you feel, along with anger and negative emotions.



Though, physicians don’t exactly understand how smoking affects memory, after several long term studies, they’ve found that it does. The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars impair mental function and can actually lessen and weaken your cognitive abilities and memory. Smoking causes memory loss, making it hard for you to retain information, both short term and long term.


Smoking causes the nerves in your brain to become inflamed, not due to nicotine however. When looking at brain inflammation, the compound NNK, plays an important role. It’s presences is found in most tobacco products. Not only could it eventually lead to Alzheimer’s (a disease that deals with cognitive functioning), but can lead to multiple sclerosis (a potentially debilitating disease having effects on the nerves in your nervous system). Also, after NNK is metabolized by the body, it becomes a carcinogenic compound (can cause cancer).

Is your brain rotting?

Researchers at King’s College London found that smoking literally “rots” the brain away. This was a large study which included nearly 9000 people. During their investigation, looking for links involving the state of the brain and heart attacks or strokes, they found an overall decline in the brain- smoker’s brains is rotting away with every puff.

The brain is a very important part of our body. Imagine yourself without your brain- you’d be nothing. Physicians are working on replacing organs all the time- we even have something called an artificial heart. Even if physicians were to one day develop a lab-grown brain that could function as a human brain does…replacing a person’s brain would be pretty much unthinkable. We wouldn’t be the same person. Smoking takes a great many tolls on the brain, along with the rest of your body. There are many sites, articles and products that can help you to quit smoking- but, when quitting smoking, the thing that has the most power is still your brain.


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