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View Full Version : Does smoking really 'relax' you?


blowero
12-30-2003, 02:22 PM
In a lot of the smoking-related threads here, I have noticed that a very common reason cited as to why people smoke is that it "relaxes" them. My question is: does it really relax you, or does it merely relieve the tension you feel from needing a smoke? I contend that nicotine addiction, like any other addiction, causes your "baseline" feeling to change, so that you feel tension due to your craving for the drug; this tension is then relieved when your body gets the drug it needs. The "relaxation" is only relative to the withdrawal symptoms that preceded it.

Feel free to refute this; all I ask is that everyone try to discuss it without acrimony. I realize it's a rather subjective debate, but hopefully it might be an interesting topic anyway.

bonezzz
12-30-2003, 02:39 PM
Personally, I have never been a serious smoker. The only time I have a smoke now is exam day or some other high stress event. In a stressful situation for me, one or tow nicotine sticks calms me down. Like I said though, that puts me at about three or four cigarettes a year so I can't speak for everyday smokers. After I have one or two I cough for a week and I can't stand the smell so it is a freak thing I do when panicing.

Elret
12-30-2003, 02:45 PM
I can't answer this scientifically, but I can tell you two personal experiences that seem, in my mind, to support the relaxation theory.

First, the first cigarette I ever smoked was offered to me when I was very tense and upset about something, and I absolutely felt calmer and more relaxed after smoking it, despite never having smoked before and therefore having no cravings to relieve.

Second, although I haven't been a regular smoker for quite some time, when I have mild menstrual cramps a cigarette makes my stomach feel less tight and crampy. I'll admit that one could be in my head. There's something to be said for that too, though - if the action relaxes me because I think it does, the bottom line is still the same - I feel more relaxed.

(Not that smoking is good in any way or that I'm suggesting it's a good way to relax)

London_Calling
12-30-2003, 02:56 PM
You’re a drug addict, so you feed your addiction (orally, via a cigarette) and you feel relieved, less edgy; addicts like to think of that – in the delusional way addicts have - as relaxing them. So yes, in that sense smoking does “relax” you.

But it’s hardly the same as not being a drug addict in the first place.

laigle
12-30-2003, 02:57 PM
Yes, it really does. I am not a habitual smoker, but I have lit up a cigar every now and then. First off, smoking anything decreases oxygen flow to the brain, providing a mild euphoria, much like nitrogen narcosis in diving. Second, nicotine is a depressant, just like alcohol. So smoking relaxes the smoker, just like drinking relaxes the drinker.

Now, in habitual smokers you're right. Much more relaxation is gained from satisfying addictive cravings than you get from smoking directly.

blowero
12-30-2003, 03:38 PM
Originally posted by laigle
Second, nicotine is a depressant, just like alcohol. So smoking relaxes the smoker, just like drinking relaxes the drinker.

Are you sure? I couldn't find any cites for nicotine being classified as a depressant; but it was listed as a stimulant on several web sites. I didn't spend too much time searching, though, so I could quite possibly have overlooked it.

blowero
12-30-2003, 03:53 PM
Originally posted by Elret
First, the first cigarette I ever smoked was offered to me when I was very tense and upset about something, and I absolutely felt calmer and more relaxed after smoking it, despite never having smoked before and therefore having no cravings to relieve.

But did it make you feel relaxed, or did it just make you feel happy? A couple of sources I looked at said smoking causes dopamine to be released, which makes me suspect that it's not really relieving stress, but rather causing a temporary euphoria that masks whatever problem you were upset about. The first time I tried a cigarette, I don't remember being in a particularly bad mood, and the only effect I remember was dizziness and a "buzz" feeling.

Second, although I haven't been a regular smoker for quite some time, when I have mild menstrual cramps a cigarette makes my stomach feel less tight and crampy. I'll admit that one could be in my head. There's something to be said for that too, though - if the action relaxes me because I think it does, the bottom line is still the same - I feel more relaxed.

Yeah, that's a good point - I think I remember seeing something about nicotene causing muscles to relax.

laigle
12-30-2003, 04:04 PM
Originally posted by blowero
Are you sure? I couldn't find any cites for nicotine being classified as a depressant; but it was listed as a stimulant on several web sites. I didn't spend too much time searching, though, so I could quite possibly have overlooked it.

Well, that's what I always got fed back in school. Or maybe I'm just mis-remembering. BUt it would seem to be psycho-active either way, so it's not purely a matter of feeding a fix.

IWLN
12-31-2003, 01:11 AM
Originally posted by laigle
Well, that's what I always got fed back in school. Or maybe I'm just mis-remembering. BUt it would seem to be psycho-active either way, so it's not purely a matter of feeding a fix. It temporarily raises your pulse and blood pressure for about 20 minutes, I think, after each cigarette. Doesn't sound like a depressant to me.

don't ask
12-31-2003, 01:18 AM
If you talk to smokers you'll also discover that smoking "peps you up", "helps you concentrate" and "takes your mind off things", "suppresses your appetite" and "makes eating more enjoyable", "gives you a buzz" and "calms you down", "helps you go to sleep" and "wakes you up".

God why did I give up? What a drug.

Diogenes the Cynic
12-31-2003, 01:28 AM
As an ex smoker I would say that smoking "relaxed" me in the sense that it provided relief from withdrawal and created a temporary sense of well-being. It's not so much that nicotine per se is a relaxant but that it momentarily releases some tension for those who are addicts.

Quint Essence
12-31-2003, 02:50 AM
London calling...you obviously have no idea what you are talking about on this subject so why post blithering nonsense?

Cigarettes cause dilation of blood vessels which in turn increase blood flow to the brain and the extremities.
They do relax you.

London_Calling
12-31-2003, 03:09 AM
Originally posted by Quint Essence
Cigarettes cause dilation of blood vessels which in turn increase blood flow to the brain and the extremities.
They do relax you.

Link: (http://www.globaltechnoscan.com/15thJan-21stJan03/artery_damage.htm)

"When blood vessels are exposed to cigarette smoke it causes the vessels to behave like a rigid pipe rather than a flexible tube, thus the vessels can't dilate in response to increased blood flow," says David J. Bouchier-Hayes, M.D., senior author of the taurine study and professor of surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. This is a condition called endothelial dysfunction.

Endothelial dysfunction is one of the earliest signs of the atherosclerosis, which is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. "We're not trying to find a therapeutic treatment for smoking, because we believe that the best therapy for smokers is to stop smoking," says Bouchier-Hayes. "Nonetheless, smokers provide a good clinical model for treatment of endothelial dysfunction."
Originally posted by Quint Essence
London calling...you obviously have no idea what you are talking about on this subject so why post blithering nonsense

Charmed, I'm sure.

Quint Essence
12-31-2003, 07:38 AM
endothelial dysfunction is hardly a normal response in an otherwise healthy person smoking a cigarette.

get a clue...

London_Calling
12-31-2003, 10:22 AM
You:

Cigarettes cause dilation of blood vessels which in turn increase blood flow to the brain and the extremities.

vs.


David J. Bouchier-Hayes, M.D., senior author of the taurine study and professor of surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin

When blood vessels are exposed to cigarette smoke it causes the vessels to behave like a rigid pipe rather than a flexible tube, thus the vessels can't dilate . .

I need to "get a cliue" . . . ?

AZCowboy
12-31-2003, 12:16 PM
How can these two positions be reconciled? It has been suggested that smokers can be broadly divided into two categories: Those who are prone to stress/have high resting arousal levels ("sedation" group), and those who have low resting arousal levels and who become stimulated by smoking ("stimulation" group). The sedation group only experiences the calming/relaxing effects of nicotine because their high arousal level is not available for increase. By comparison, the stimulation group experience an overwhelming feeling of increased arousal as their low basal levels are greatly increased by nicotine, and this overshadows the sedating effects. Studies have also revealed effects on mood, with acute nicotine administration producing dose related increases in drug liking and euphoria (Pormerleau & Pormerleau 1992, 1994).
Cite (http://psychology.unn.ac.uk/mark/PY116/HPnicotine/HPNICOTINE.htm)I have a strong recollection of watching some animal show long ago (perhaps Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom) where nicotine was used in a dart to tranquilize a rhinoceros. One might conclude a "relaxing" effect...

Sam Stone
12-31-2003, 12:52 PM
There's another possibility here - smoking may be self-medicating for ADD symptoms.

In ADD people, stimulant medications actually have a calming effect. The brain doesn't make enough of its own internal stimulant which helps people to focus and stay calm. Absent this stimulant, the brain just wanders all over the place willy-nilly, leading to stresss and agitation. ADD people are often thrill-seeking or conflict-seeking, because the added stimulation from that actually calms them and makes them feel better. Thus, the prescription for stimulant medications, which paradoxically makes them feel calm and in control.

Notice that the increase in reported ADD cases has gone up in reverse correlation with the number of people who have quit smoking? Of course, correlation doesn't imply causation, but I find it interesting that nicotine is a stimulant, that ADD treatment uses stimulants, and that diagnoses of ADD have gone up as people stopped using a common stimulant.

blowero
12-31-2003, 02:23 PM
Originally posted by Sam Stone
Of course, correlation doesn't imply causation
You should have stopped right there. I could just as easily attribute the increase in ADD diagnoses to the fact that more people listen to rap music, or more people drive SUVs.

Sam Stone
12-31-2003, 02:31 PM
Not at all. There is a plausible connection with smoking (the stimulant of nicotine) which doesn't exist with those other things. This makes it a plausible hypothesis worth investigating.

theR
12-31-2003, 03:22 PM
Originally posted by Quint Essence
London calling...you obviously have no idea what you are talking about on this subject so why post blithering nonsense?

Cigarettes cause dilation of blood vessels which in turn increase blood flow to the brain and the extremities.
They do relax you.

In addition to London_calling pointing out that you are actually the one who is mistaken, I'd like to add something. In addition to narrowing the blood vessels, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces oxygen carried by red blood cells, which has a very similar effect to the narrowing of the blood vessels. Both the narrowing of blood vessels and using red blood cells for carbon monoxide transport instead of oxygen transport means that oxygen does not reach your brain or muscles as easily.

I'm actually amazed that people think smoking helps your circulation in this day and age when quite reliable information about smoking is so readily available.

As for whether it is relaxing or relieving, that depends. Relaxing is fairly subjective, as it can be seen by its definitions (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=relax). So it can certainly be relaxing to someone despite raising blood pressure and increasing heart rate. From my experience smoking tobacco, though, it was relaxing to me psychologically because I believed that it relaxed me, but relieving to me in a physical sense. If I hadn't wanted a cigarette in the first place then I probably would not have needed to be relaxed.

I quit more than 10 years ago, by the way, after being a smoker for five or more years.

bouv
12-31-2003, 03:37 PM
It seem to me that the issue here is whether a cigarette can relax you, despite the fact that it increases blood pressure, heart rate, and so forth. I think that maybe it can both relax someone, and give them a buzz, depending on circumstance.

Let's take someone who has never had a cigarette before, they smoke one, what happens? he nicotine causues vasoconstriction (or, at the very least, prohibits vasodialation.) This increases the blood pressure, causing the hrat to puymp harder and/or faster to get the same amount of blood flow. Let's say that this person's body overcompensates, releases too much adrenaline, and the heart pumps too much, resulting is more blood flow and mroe oxygen to the brain, perhaps giving a buzz-like feeling, or just making someone more alert and awake.

Now, if just the opposite happens, the body doesn't respond enough and the heart doesn't pump enough, then the brain oesn't get enough oxygen, causing the person to possibly feel lethargic and relaxed.

Just my theory. And seeing as it comes from but one semester of human physiology, feel free to yell at me and say I'm wrong, because I probably am, and you probably know a lot more than me.

Quint Essence
12-31-2003, 11:31 PM
London_calling, I apologize for being insulting earlier, but I stand by what I said.
The article you link to is speaking of a condition that is common in long term smokers and is a precursor to artery disease. It is not though very descriptive of the average effects of nicotine on an otherwise healthy person.
It also fails to mention the Cerebrovaso-dilation that occurs even in long term smokers, and is one of the primary effects of nicotine.

Further, what one finds "relaxing" is completly subjective. Some people 'relax" by watching horror flicks or going skydiving, while others can't seem to relax in a knitting class.

don't ask
12-31-2003, 11:45 PM
The point I was trying to make with my post is that if you ask smokers, they will tell you all sorts of things that they believe cigarettes do. Unfortunately they are all crap - it is the habituation talking, just the natural inclination to make excuses for yourself. Cigarettes don't achieve all these often contradictory effects. Having not smoked for a few years now I can guarantee that I know what effect smoking a cigarette will have - the same effects as my first ones, the same effects as when I had one after not smoking for a while - it will make me dizzy, I will feel sick and I'll get a "buzz" (not a great one, but OK).

JamesCarroll
01-01-2004, 12:51 AM
Regardless of any actual physiological actions of smoking the OP asked about the "relax"ing qualities of having a smoke. This is a purely psychological question. All this stuff about heart rate and blood pressure and endothelial dysfunction really isn't relavent. That fact is that given the paraympathic and sympatetic nervous systems that we have you can not make grand assumptions about how one feels and what thir body is doing. Afterall, I'm completely relaxed in the morning, yet a certain part of my body seems to be "quite aggressive" as my girlfriend would attest.

As for smoking as a whole, I honestly think that its really quite complex and that there really won't be a answer. We have any effect at all thanks to nicotinic receptors that were part of our genetic makeup long before RJ Reynolds came along. Same for coke and dope and all the other vices. Catnip doesn't do much for me, but it seems to for my cat.

Its just receptors.

snermy
01-01-2004, 10:54 PM
Well, vague memory from freshman psychology textbook saying that nicotine flattens the highs and lows of emotional swings, but don't recall if there was a psysiological explanation attached.

Googling produced:
this which says it causes alertness or relaxation depending on how you smoke, and also sez there's a strong correlation between history of depression and smoking. (http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic1642.htm) Which could argue for self-medicating.
also this which says it increases dopamine and helps with pain. (http://neurobiology.bsd.uchicago.edu/faculty/McGehee.htm)
Which you'd think would cheer you up.

Dostromin
01-02-2004, 01:39 AM
Actually the relaxation from smoking just comes from several minuted of taking deep breathes.

gum
01-02-2004, 06:29 AM
To answer the OP; I guess not all of us.

As of yesterday smoking is forbidden in trains, public buildings, etc, [except restaurants and pubs] in the Netherlands.

A man caught smoking in the train and pointed at his abomination by a bystander, broke the nose of said bystander.

Maybe the nicotine did't hit his lungs completely, huh.