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Is there a link between smoking and stress?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A lot of people say they smoke because it relaxes them. For a moment, when you pull in that smoke, stress seems to melt away. That's because nicotine floods the pleasure center in the brain, which triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. When people smoke, they tend to feel better. But this is the cruel irony of smoking. The relief is short-lived, and before you know it, you need another hit. That dependence in and of itself can be stressful, as you try to find a way to sneak in another smoke. It's a vicious cycle: Stress, smoke, stress, smoke.

Smoking can also allow a stressed-out person a much-needed break. When work is getting you worked up, you head outside, light up, and forget your troubles for a few minutes. But guess what? There are loads of other, better ways to mitigate stress that don't require you to potentially sicken or kill yourself. Exercise, stretch, take deep breaths, rather than inhaling dangerous tobacco smoke.
There is no specific scientific link between smoking and stress. However, for those addicted to nicotine, getting into stressful situations will often lead to picking up a cigarette or increasing their nicotine intake. Part of many smoking cessation programs includes recognizing stressful situations and coping skills so you do not automatically turn to cigarettes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.