How Nootropics Can Help Students Smoke Less or Quit Smoking
When it comes to performing well at exams or academic tests, students can be quite creative in finding ways to gain that valuable mental “edge” that would help them focus better at various tasks. Preserving mental “sharpness” can be quite difficult for some, especially since you have to study days or even weeks in a row in conditions of uncertainty, not knowing exactly if your efforts will yield the results you expect. This feeling of insecurity and uncertainly is what causes panic in some students, which immediately diminishes their intellectual effectiveness and adds confusion and chaos to their “battle” plan. Indeed, learning complex academic material for difficult exams is truly a battle of the mind. You have to fight boredom, lack of energy, low motivation and other distractive thoughts that may reduce you mental efficiency. It is a battle that many students abandon prematurely if they don’t obtain some kind of support. Some of them choose to quit college altogether, others choose to endure the misery and actually manage to learn something between episodes of panic and despair, while some others may choose to party instead and deal with the problem at some later time. Some students choose more constructive approaches like studying in groups or getting the help of their parents. However, the journey towards success in life is mostly a path that you need to walk on your own, so dealing with exams and academic tasks is really up to you and your ability to find solutions that eliminate any obstacles you may be confronted with.
Some Students Report That Smoking Cigarettes May Diminish Their Anxiety
Unfortunately, some students find unhealthy solutions to help calm their nerves before exams or tests. Numerous students start smoking cigarettes in college because they feel that it helps them become calmer and more mentally focused on tasks. The health risks, however, exceed the potential benefits by far. Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of toxic and health damaging chemicals that are inhaled regularly. Tobacco smoke has the ability to alter the structure of the mouth cavity, the bronchi and lung cells. The cells that come in direct contact with tobacco smoke will develop some defense mechanisms against the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, but these mechanisms will become weaker and less efficient over time. The bronchi and lung cells will progressively lose their capacity to extract oxygen from the inhaled air in an efficient manner. Moreover, persistent smoking may cause functional cells to be replaced with fibrous tissue, which diminishes the respiratory capacity of healthy lungs and can cause respiratory insufficiency over time. If a chronic smoker is lucky enough not to develop lung or mouth cancer during his or her lifetime, then he or she will certainly suffer from some degree of respiratory insufficiency and some type of cardiovascular issues. There is absolutely no way around the negative impact caused by smoking on the respiratory and cardiovascular system. No smoker is protected against lung damage, even if they have a strong immune system. Chronic smoking causes a gradual replacement of functional lung cells with fibrous cells, and a diminished respiratory volume. These changes cause the disease known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Virtually all smokers who have been consuming tobacco for many years have some form of COPD, ranging from mild to severe. In the terminal stages of COPD, even if the smoker has not been affected by lung cancer, the individual usually becomes dependent upon oxygen therapy provided by stationary or portable oxygen concentrators. It is an expensive and sometimes inconvenient form of therapy, and it also requires the individual to have oxygen available whenever it is needed to relieve the signs of respiratory distress. Not all smokers will be affected by severe COPD and not all will have the necessity to undergo oxygen therapy regularly, but some lung damage is unavoidable. Lung cancer is a more tragic story. It strikes without warning, and when respiratory difficulties are diagnosed, it is usually in advanced stages where treatment options are limited. In many cases, lung cancer is diagnosed accidentally when having an X-ray for another health problem. Smoking also creates an unnecessary risk for heart disease, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and impotence. As you can see, the costs of relieving your pre-exam anxiety and achieving short term mental focus are quite high with smoking. The health risks associated with chronic smoking of cigarettes are so dramatic that the mental benefits of smoking simply fade away. There are certainly safer ways to calm your nerves and achieve a “sharper” mind before an exam, and using nootropics is one of them.
Smoking Stimulates Nicotinic Receptors and Enhances Acetylcholine Neurotransmission in Your Brain
You would probably agree that smoking is harmful for your health if you understand the facts and the statistics presented conclusively by the medical community. But how does smoking help you concentrate better and help you stay calm? Well, the benefits are greatly exaggerated, although smoking does induce some temporary, short term changes in the activity of your brain. The only substance that is active biochemically in your brain in cigarette smoke is nicotine. The other hundreds of chemicals that are toxic for your lungs have absolutely no effect on your brain function and no mental benefits whatsoever. Is it worth the risk to inhale the multitude of toxic chemicals just to feel the effect of nicotine? Well, electronic cigarette manufacturers say that there is an alternative, but the safety of e-cigs is not yet clearly demonstrated. After all, they also deliver nicotine, which may have negative effects of its own since it is short acting yet powerful stimulant.
So how does nicotine influence neurotransmission in your brain?
By inducing changes in the acetylcholine neurotransmitter system, which is implicated in mental alertness, memory acquisition and better cognition, is the short answer. There are two types of acetylcholine receptors, which are scientifically known as muscarinic and nicotinic. As you can probably guess, nicotine is able to stimulant the second type of acetylcholine receptors. Why is it necessary to have two types of receptors sensitive to acetylcholine in your brain? The receptors are slightly different in terms of their chemical arrangement, which means that they will respond depending on the concentration of acetylcholine available in a particular neuronal synapse. At low concentrations, some receptors will respond better because they are more sensitive, while at higher concentrations, other groups of receptors will respond since they take longer to activate. It is a natural mechanism of fine tuning the effects of acetylcholine and allows for a selective activation of target brain cells or muscle fibers. Nicotinic receptors are sensitive to acetylcholine, but also to nicotine, obviously. These receptors can be found in the terminal junctions between neurons and muscle fibers, which are located at the end of nervous pathways. This is why excessive smoking can sometimes cause hand shaking due to an additional cholinergic (acetylcholine mediated) neurotransmission. In a similar manner, smoking can cause your heart to beat faster, can increase your blood pressure to some extent, and can stimulate the production of cortisol or adrenaline since the adrenal glands are also stimulated by nicotinic receptors through cholinergic nerve fibers.
By activating a subgroup of acetylcholine receptors in your brain, nicotine can improve mental alertness to some degree and make you feel “sharper” and less nervous. The effects, however, are greatly exaggerated by smokers for two reasons. First, the mental effects are not as dramatic as they are described by smokers. Most smokers are obviously biased when evaluating the effects of nicotine because they would do anything to hold onto this stress relief method they deeply believe in. Nicotine is a stimulant, and so the reported anxiety relief is probably just a consequence of distracting the mind through smoking. If you abandon smoking abruptly, then you may experience considerable anxiety and restlessness because the nicotinic receptors are not stimulated sufficiently through the delivered nicotine as it happened before. Moreover, you can experience anxiety right after you finish the cigarette because nicotine has prominent stimulant properties. Secondly, even though it is true that smoking can increase mental alertness to some extent, the effects of nicotine last only for several minutes and sometimes they may become less intense in a matter of seconds. It is a short-acting stimulant, and so the brain will return to its previous state of mental alertness very soon. This is why you may feel the need to smoke again, which won’t make your lungs happy at all. This self-enforced cycle of smoking and anxiety causes progressive health damage and can make quitting a very difficult task, so seeking help if you already smoke is highly encouraged.
Nootropics Provide a Safer Enhancement of Mental Sharpness
If you are smoking regularly to “calm your nerves” and focus more efficiently before a challenging exam or a difficult task at work, then you may want to try nootropics as a safer method to boost your mental productivity and achieve a sharper mind. First of all, nootropics are effective for hours rather than minutes when compared to nicotine effects. Moreover, nootropics do not work as typical stimulants. These supplements work through collateral, safer pathways to boost neurotransmission in your brain and enhance your memory, so hand shaking, palpitations or high blood pressure are less likely to occur. Rest assured that nootropics will not cause lung cancer or respiratory failure. Besides being safer for your lungs and your brain, you are able to control your mental productivity much better than with nicotine. The effects of nicotine are quite unpredictable because you never know what concentration of nicotine you are getting with every cigarette you smoke. It depends on the number of puffs, on the concentration of nicotine in that particular tobacco batch and on the volume of your puffs. You can, however, achieve a predictable stimulation of your mental productivity and memory by gradually experimenting with nootropic stacks and trying new supplements on a regular basis.
You can accurately observe the effects and control the dosage, which makes nootropics a far better mental enhancing method than smoking nervously every hour. Examples of nootropics that can induce mental sharpness in a safe manner are racetams like aniracetam or phenylpiracetam, “smart drugs” like noopept or reversible inhibitors of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme like huperzine A or galantamine. You can also try mental boosters like caffeine or L-theanine for better mental clarity. If you are already a smoker, it may be difficult for you to abandon this unhealthy habit abruptly. It is not recommended to consume tobacco and nootropics at the same time due to potential stimulant-like side effects. You are encouraged to seek help with smoking cessation from a doctor and then ask him or her whether it is a good idea for you to try nootropics after your cardiovascular and respiratory health is accurately checked. Start experimenting with small doses and various combinations of nootropic supplements, and increase the intake of nootropics incorporated in your stack after at least one week of observing the effects. You will soon discover the amazing potential of these safe supplements and you will create your own individual stack that will offer you the fine tuned mental enhancement you need. It will hopefully boost your mental sharpness and provide enough motivation to persevere in your academic or work related endeavors.