Does the Red Queen Smoke?

From this Scienceblogs GNXP thread, in regards to the comment by Spike Gomes in which he discusses his reasons for smoking:

Beyond sheer pleasure, they also offer me a cognitive and creative boost as well.

I strongly suspect that the physiological adaptations to nicotine that our bodies go through negate any benefit a long-time stimulant user might otherwise experience.  People who use caffiene regularly don’t get a stimulating bonus from it, they’re penalized if they don’t use it.  Why would we expect nicotine to be fundamentally different?

I’d bet smoking is to physiology what professional sports players’ superstitions are to psychology:  they don’t make you do any better, but you do a lot worse if they’re taken away, so people belief in their efficiacy.

Do they really offer you an improvement over base functioning?  Or did they redefine your ‘base’ so that you’re worse off without them?  Readers (and especially Mr. Gomes), I’m interested in your thoughts and experiences on this topic.


5 Responses to “Does the Red Queen Smoke?”

  1. I’m not knowledgeable about smoking (I was asthmatic as a kid and I’m still sensitive to smoke) but I’m reminded of this.

  2. I left a reply on Razib’s blog that covers the main part of it. I was going to debate more after I noticed the link to my blog, but perusing your blog, I think you have a bit of a hobbyhorse going with regards to recreational neurochemistry.

    That being said, if you are the poster known as Caledonian, from my recollections of debates between you and Razib, no amount of data and/or brilliant arguing will make you change your beliefs on certain things you are absolutely convinced on. Hence I will save my breath and time on the matter of providing evidence of the cognitive effects of nicotine aside from the addictive potential and habituation (which I certainly don’t deny). Sorry to disappoint, and please do not take it as an insult. I’ve my own hobbyhorses (mostly confined to aesthetics), it’s a human thing.

    I guess one could say one thing about the life-shortening effects of my habit. It makes one much more aware of the fleeting nature of life and how one must wisely make one’s time worthwhile.

  3. Why is it that you use the two different names: Caledonian and melendwyr?

  4. Spike, thank you for the reply.

    TGGP: I use many names. Caledonian, melendwyr, James Vandermark, Barbarea Verna. It’s not the finger that’s important, it’s the sky.

  5. michael vassar Says:

    My experience with caffeine is that I can use it to reduce my sleep requirements in the very long term with no apparent loss compared to non-use and large benefit compared to the same sleep level without it. OTOH, modern eating and sleeping habits and lighting are highly unnatural, and sleeping less is probably not adaptive or we would be evolved to need less sleep. Frequent and sometimes prolonged fasting seems to reduce my sleep requirements by more than caffeine does and the benefit is non-cumulative. We are probably evolved to sleep more than we need to if we are nourished and have a good place to sleep. Safer that way.

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