We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Connection Between Nicotine and Dopamine?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings such as pleasure, relaxation and happiness. Nicotine affects nearly every part of the human body, especially the brain. When nicotine and dopamine receptors interact, the brain changes how it creates dopamine and how it responds to dopamine. This reaction is the primary cause of addiction to nicotine.

Within seven seconds, nicotine makes its way from the lungs to the blood and into the brain. While the average cigarette contains only 1 mg to 3 mg of nicotine, this is enough to cause a long-lasting alteration of the human brain. Nicotine causes the brain to produce more dopamine than it usually does, which accounts for the stimulating and euphoric effects of tobacco use. The effect on dopamine levels in the brain is similar to the effect that amphetamines and psychostimulants have on the brain, making tobacco use comparable to the use of drugs such as cocaine.

When nicotine and dopamine receptors interact and the brain begins producing more dopamine in response to the nicotine, this causes the brain to reduce its production of natural dopamine. The organ essentially is taught that it only needs to create this neurotransmitter in response to the drug rather than in response to its natural function. While this process happens rather rapidly, it continues for long after nicotine use is stopped, accounting for the amount of tobacco users who quit the habit, only to go back to it months or years later.

Nicotine and dopamine play a trick on the human brain. When nicotine is first introduced to the body, while the brain is still producing dopamine naturally, it causes the brain to produce a much higher level of dopamine than it is used to producing. This, in turn, causes the brain to create more dopamine receptors to handle the amount of dopamine being produced, causing the brain to be more sensitive to the presence of nicotine and dopamine, and to their absence.

Nicotine and dopamine, when combined, are the primary reason for addiction to tobacco products and the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting. The alteration of the brain to only produce dopamine in certain situations and the increase in dopamine receptors causes those who use tobacco products to need frequent and steady “fixes” to feel normal. This, coupled with the fact that the effects of nicotine typically wear off within minutes, is the primary reason why quitting tobacco products is such a difficult thing to do.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.