Smoking Worsens Negative Impact of Gaming on the Brain: What You Can Do

Smoking Worsens Negative Impact of Gaming on the Brain: What You Can Do

Caring for your brain is vital, given how integral it is to your health, wellness, and overall quality of life. If you’re a gamer, you thus need to be especially wary about how video games can affect it. Our article Video Games and Mental Health notes that excess gaming can worsen sleep patterns and anxiety. It can also turn into an addiction: by inducing the production of the happy hormone dopamine, gaming makes you less motivated to do other tasks. Eventually, you may be in a vicious cycle where you play more and risk your brain health.

And even without a gaming addiction, players are also more likely to have another habit that can damage the brain: smoking. The Truth Initiative’s article Some Video Games Glamorize Smoking So Much That Cigarettes Can Help Players Win notes that the positive smoking imagery painted by titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 makes gamers more likely to pick up the habit. Research from the journal Addictive Behaviors Reports finds that strategic video game advertisements also influence more gamers to use similar products, like vapes.

Unfortunately, cigarette and e-cigarette use can worsen gaming’s negative impact on the brain. Here’s what you need to know if you’re among the many gamers who smoke.

Gaming and SmokingSmoking, gaming, and the brain

Smoking distinctively affects the brain. Medical News Today explains that it can affect your cognitive skills, including your ability to memorize information and focus on people and objects. When combined with gaming, you may experience even more unique complications to your brain health. Chinese researchers discovered the first in the 2020 study, Interaction Between Smoking and Internet Gaming Disorder on Spontaneous Brain Activity. Here, they found that smoking and gaming work together to make your brain less likely to stay active when it’s not faced with external sensory input.

Research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reveals the second way smoking worsens gaming’s negative health impacts: their individual effects mainly interact with the brain’s reward and memory circuits. A related study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry—Vaping and the Brain—adds that similar habits to smoking, like e-cigarette use, can increase rates of addiction outside of vaping itself. That’s because the flavor enhancers in such products promote reward-related behavior. That can have an especially significant impact on the many gamers who vape by further amplifying the way video game addictions promote dopamine production.

Ultimately, that means smoking either cigarettes or e-cigarettes can make you more addicted to gaming. Once established as destructive long-term habits, these activities can make your brain more vulnerable to accumulated damage.

What you can do about it

Quit smoking

Since smoking worsens spontaneous brain activity while making you even more addicted to gaming, it’s best to quit it altogether. To prevent relapse caused by withdrawal symptoms, you can start by switching to smokeless and tobacco-free alternatives like pouches and patches. The pouches, tucked under the lip and last for an hour, come in various flavors and strengths to suit your preferences, especially if you’re transitioning from vapes. Reliable brands even offer additional features that are in line with your needs. On! nicotine pouches exemplify this: produced by the same parent company as Marlboro, they’re among the most compact dry options available. That means they’ll better fit under your lip without causing excess drip, making them a good hands-free, hygienic option for gaming that satisfies the oral cues of cigarette smoking.

Meanwhile, the patch goes directly to the skin. You may also prefer getting them from quality brands. That’s because the nicotine patches from Nicoderm CQ and other industry leaders are designed to slowly release nicotine throughout the day, so you can slap one on before you press play and forget about it. From there, you can seek additional support. Online forums like Reddit can connect you to other smoking gamers struggling to quit. Cognitive behavioral therapy can even help you understand why you associate smoking with gaming in the first place—and recommend healthier practices you can try instead.

Game in moderation

Once you have a strategy to deal with your smoking habit, you need to discern if—in line with the studies above—it’s helped make you addicted to gaming. If you neglect other aspects of your life to play, become irritated when you’re away from your PC or console (which is essentially a type of withdrawal), and experience altered appetites and eating patterns, start moderating your playing habits to deal with your gaming addiction. According to The Zeitgeist, the best thing you can do is limit how much you play daily. You can start by allotting yourself as much as two hours daily, then gradually whittling that down to 30 minutes over time. Setting phone alarms or asking a friend or family member to remind you when to stop gaming can help keep you accountable. To keep yourself busy when you’re not playing, try healthier activities. For example, you can walk around the neighborhood or take up new hobbies like reading. Dedicating a specific area of the home to gaming can also prevent you from playing when you don’t need to. These simple steps can help you prevent further brain damage by eliminating the excess gaming caused by cigarette use. Like smoking, however, a gaming addiction can still be challenging to quit. So, if you need more help, you may want to consult a therapist for more tailored advice.

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