Cigarette Addiction -More on Nicotine

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, few people still smoke. But if you get away from the coast, you see the grip that nicotine addiction still has on people. I wrote a prior post on stopping smoking but newer studies are showing that the addictive properties of modern cigarettes are even more powerful than we thought.

Cigarette smoke contains 4000 chemical compounds, some of which also reinforce smoking behavior. This may explain why nicotine replacement therapies are often ineffective alone. Using PET (positive emission tomography)scans, researchers found smokers have 40% less of certain enzymes in their brains and other organs of the body. This may explain the increased rate of smoking in diseases like depression because these enzymes affect neurotransmitters that lead to depression. Cigarette smoking, like other addictive compounds (cocaine, methamphetamine) causes intense craving and brain imaging techniques are giving scientists a window on what happens during cravings.

It is becoming more clear that there is probably a genetic basis for addiction. As we develop treatment drugs that are selective for a persons genotype, we will be able to use therapies that are targeted and appropriate.

Until we get there, we need to use all the tools we now have to help people stop smoking. Use every opportunity you have and talk to your children about the dangers of cigarettes. Explain that Hollywood uses smoking in movies to influence the kids to start. Ask any physician…the number one most important thing you can do for your health is to Stop Smoking Today.

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