I started this book by referring to the French planned neuro-science study to make anti-cigarette advertising more effective.
This proposal does not refer to the reason for the addictive abilities of nicotine. I would have thought that this is where we should start any discussion.
Neuroscientists understand fairly well how addictions come about. The main component of any addiction is a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. The common term for dopamine is: the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter.
A very ‘playful’ explanation of how various drugs – including nicotine and alcohol – has an effect on the release of dopamine in the brain can be found in the University of Utahs site titled ‘The Mouse Party’
What is important is that dopamine is found in all animals. It is vital for survival of all animals. It is what makes us learn what is good for us and what is bad. I.e. what makes us feel-good and what makes us not feel-good.
This is how we know that when we are hungry (not feeling good) we should eat and we will then feel good. It can truly be said that we (all animals) spend their lives trying to release more dopamine in their brains.
However, we do not see animals becoming addicted to drugs. This is because we – humans – have figured out ways to artificially increase the dopamine in our brains.
A video explaining the dopamine effect of nicotine.
This desire to increase dopamine does not only underlie drug-addictions. It also underlies the addictions that plague shop-a-holics, gamble-holics, eat-aholics, etc.
Any behaviour that makes you feel good is based on dopamine – whether the behaviour is deemed by others to be socially correct or deviant.
Joggers, fitness fanatics, political activists are motivated by dopamine.
The key word is MOTIVATED. Dopamine is what motivates us to do something.
Even anti-smoking lobbyists are motivated by dopamine. They feel good as a result of what they are doing.
If we really want to adress the issues of smoking then we need to start with the issues of addiction and dopamine.
We need to recognize that 50% of the cause of addiction is scientifically ascribed to genetics. We need to think about ways that we can substitute the dopamine effects of cigarettes – especially not just leave it up to the individual to find alternative drugs.