What is It About the First Puff That Hooks Smokers for Life?

by Savitha C Muppala on Aug 9 2008 8:45 AM

Canadian researchers seem to know just why smokers are hooked right from their first puff. This research might also help with strategies that can help smokers kick the butt.

Steven Laviolette, from the department of anatomy and cell biology and team leader of the research said, 'Nicotine interacts with a variety of neuro-chemical pathways within the brain to produce its rewarding and addictive effects.'

He explained that during the initial period of exposure to tobacco, many people report an aversion to its effects. All the same, there are many others who experience quite the opposite reaction of an intense high; this research might help understand the distinction, the researcher said.

Researchers zeroed in on one pathway that utilizes the neurotransmitter dopamine to send signals connected to the rewarding characteristics of nicotine. This pathway is termed as the mesolimbic dopamine system, and is a key factor promoting addiction to drugs like alcohol, nicotine and cocaine.

'While much progress has been made in understanding how the brain processes the rewarding effects of nicotine after the dependence is established, very little is known about how the mesolimbic dopamine system may control the initial vulnerability to nicotine. That is, why do some individuals become quickly addicted to nicotine while others do not, and in some cases, even find nicotine to be highly aversive,' Laviolette said.

Significantly, the findings may help comprehend an individual's susceptibility to nicotine addiction and may help with the development of novel pharmacological treatments aimed at treatment of nicotine addiction.