It is difficult to quit bad habits when one is depressed. The medical condition of depression makes even the motivation to get out of bed difficult. And when one does, they often like to celebrate in the ways that are plausible. And reaching for that cigarette is a relatively easy way to self-soothe.
But everyone knows that smoking can cause lung cancer. They know in their heads since the campaigns have changed to include warning on the packages that there are a whole host of problems caused by smoking. And a depressed person does not want to deal with rotting teeth as well as decaying internal organs. However, then why does depression seem to make it particularly hard to quit smoking?
The answer actually lies more in science than one might think. Of course, there is the nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. It is always one of the top of the list for addicting drugs in general. According to the Mental Health Foundation, nicotine gets to the brain in around ten seconds. If you can remember that antidepressants, by comparison, take at least 30 days to notice minimal effects, then there is a stark contrast in the efficacy of smoking versus the standard treatment via medication. And even though there are other pills that psychiatrists can offer to help numb a person in the meantime, they don’t hand them out like candy. For example, most doctors might prescribe quick acting anti-anxiety medications, but these can have a host of side effects. For example, Ativan might make a person more prone to crawling back in bed than staying out of it. And if the doctor notices dependency, then the professional might cut the supply. That might leave the person feeling a withdrawal, and more likely to find soothing substances.
On Smokefree.gov, the site notes that there are mood changes when one does decide to quit smoking. They are due to the body getting used to not having nicotine. While they might subside in a couple weeks, a person may not want to wait for that through when they are already struggling with another mood-altering change in their brain. On the website Cracked, a 2006 study is revealed where those that wear the nicotine patch actually do get relief from depression. Those who wore the patch eight days or longer noted a significant decrease in the symptoms of depression. This is because nicotine increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. And once nicotine is removed from a cigarette, the substance in itself is not really that addictive. However, the site notes that scientists still cannot recommend nicotine in other forms because there are not enough studies completed yet on the long-term effects.
Science Daily is an excellent resource for information regarding the latest scientific breakthroughs. A study from Virginia Commonwealth University published on November 8, 2012 states that there still is some work to be done in helping smokers to quit cigarettes without feeling anxious. However, they did discover that the reason that nicotine is so calming to people is due to the high-affinity beta2 subunit containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. So these receptors are blocked by nicotine. Any drug that helps smokers quit would also have to target these receptors. They would then hope to develop a drug that helps reduce anxiety in the same way as cigarettes, but with fewer side effects.
Many times depression is misdiagnosed. It seems to be a problem now when the complex disorders come into the forefront. Doctors might be less likely to see depression as a problem when the person is in the throws of a mixed episode. But the depressive side is just as dangerous with conditions like suicide on the forefront of an ill person’s brain. However, their doctor might just focus on the unruly behaviors of mania. That is why many patients continue to lean on smoking to help them with their problems. And since it clearly does work, science needs to step up the game if people who are mentally ill have any chance of quitting their habit.