The title makes me think of the Cheech and Chong movie (remember them?) and giggle a little bit. Although, I find nothing humorous about smoking these days. I’m one of those obnoxious ex-smokers who can’t stand to be around smoke and is terribly insulted that anyone dares to pollute MY air.
I spent a lot of time going in and out of a public building last week, and I literally ran and held my breath going through the clouds of smoke put off by the people huddled around the entrance with their cigarettes. I am in no way criticizing or judging them and I actually empathize with them understanding the death grip (literally) cigarettes have on a person.
My Brain in a Cloud of Smoke
Growing up in North Carolina, smoking was not uncommon, especially back then. My first cigarette was with some other teenage girls in a barn with horses and lots of hay. Smart, huh? I smoked socially through college and as a young adult, but smoking did not go with my persona in my public, adult life. So, I became a closet smoker on my down time and if I was drinking socially, I had a cigarette in my hand.
Quitting for both of my pregnancies, I found it fairly easy to stop for someone else’s health. I had been trying to quit for years and pretended to quit in the couple of years before I actually did manage to stop for good. These days, there are various electronic cigarettes available which can help a person taper down and quit. I didn’t want to smoke. I knew better and wanted better for myself, but wanting and doing were worlds apart — which only led to binge smoking. Think chimney. Once I started, I smoked the whole pack.
Giving in and buying a pack, I would tell myself I was only going to smoke one. I would, and run water over the rest. I became an expert at drying out the soggy cigarettes in the microwave and on the toaster. When in the hospital for two weeks after trying to commit suicide, I finally quit because I couldn’t light up in there.
How Smoking Damages Your Brain
We all pretty much know by now that smoking is damaging for the lungs and heart, but did you know it is bad for the brain also?
Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and other dementias. In one study, it was found that heavy smoking in mid-life may increase the risk of these as much as 100 percent. While not clearly determined yet, it’s thought that the connection is vascular in origin and the result of damage to the small blood vessels of the brain.
Many studies have shown that “tobacco smoking is associated with large-scale and wide-spread structural brain abnormalities.” Smoking thins the orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with impulse control, reward processing and decision making. In addition to the large dopamine release you get from smoking, these physical changes might also explain the addictiveness of the habit.
For me, I think, smoking was a manifestation of my feelings towards myself. I didn’t value myself or treat myself with respect or kindness. Now, I find it hard to believe I ever did it.
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/neilmoralee/