Some new findings on Nicotine Addiction

Joel
Joel

9:37 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #1

While the title may be a bit misleading--the article is pretty good.
From the Chicago Tribune

Experts say love of nicotine is all in mindBy Ronald Kotulak
Tribune science reporter

March 14, 2002

Working to unravel a long-standing puzzle of cigarette addiction, University of Chicago researchers have discovered why smoking is uniquely pleasurable and why nicotine has such ferociously addictive powers.

Published Thursday in the scientific journal Neuron, the research shows that nicotine not only stimulates pleasure in the brain's reward center but has the unique ability to neutralize the "off-switch" that usually throttles down good feelings quickly.

The finding provides major clues to understanding the complex process by which the brain becomes addicted to nicotine and opens new approaches to developing drugs to block nicotine's power to hijack the brain.

For the 2,000 teenagers a day who become smokers, the new evidence helps to explain how a single cigarette quickly teaches the brain cells of a first-time smoker to crave nicotine.

And for the more than 30 million American smokers who try to quit smoking each year and fail, the finding shows why breaking the habit is so hard.

The U. of C.'s Daniel S. McGehee and his colleagues showed how nicotine from a cigarette produces a high that can last up to an hour.

It does so first by quickly turning on the pleasure chemical dopamine in the brain's reward center, something scientists have known for several years. But the dopamine surge ends quickly, and researchers couldn't figure out what caused nicotine's long-lasting high and its ability to induce addiction.

McGehee's finding shows for the first time that nicotine also acts on a group of regulatory cells whose job is to stop the dopamine high. With this control mechanism temporarily disabled, the reward system continues to operate long after it should have been shut down.

The result is a runaway feel-good sensation that the brain commits to its memory bank as something it wants more of.

"This gives an explanation for why the long high happens," said Dr. Glen Hanson, acting director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "It's a combination of tolerance happening to several systems at the same time. When you sum everything up, you get an enhancement of the dopamine pleasure pathway."

McGehee's detailed studies of rat brains revealed the step-by-step process by which nicotine takes over the brain's reward system. Neuronal pathways in that system were examined cell by cell to determine how they responded or failed to respond to individual neurotransmitters.

Drug companies have been hampered in their efforts to develop anti-addiction medicines because they didn't know how the brain became addicted, said John Dani, a Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist who was one of the first to show nicotine's effect on dopamine.

"Dan's work will allow both academic and pharmaceutical researchers to focus on the mechanisms of addiction with a greater understanding of how they work," Dani said.

The brain's reward system, scientists believe, is basically designed to help a person learn what is good for his survival and what is not.

It provides a wide range of sensations from euphoria to just plain feeling good. Experiences such as falling in love, getting a big promotion, coloring between the lines for the first time, seeing your baby's smile and winning the lottery promote some of the biggest dopamine jolts. Eating a good meal, making a new friend, taking a walk on the first morning of spring, working a crossword puzzle and other less intense learning experiences get less of the pleasure chemical.

"These really important events in our lives have a different quality to them that is imparted by the reward system," McGehee said. "What the drugs of abuse are doing is usurping that reward system."

Dopamine is carefully dispensed. A jolt makes a person feel good and helps lay down a memory of a new experience or reinforce an old one.

But dopamine is soon cut off, reducing the pleasurable effect to baseline levels. If it weren't turned down, dopamine would cause a constant feeling of being high, which would impede new learning and reduce the chance of survival.

"Nicotine acts as if it's reinforcing a behavior that should be rewarded," Dani said. "The brain is fooled into thinking that nicotine is a proper participant in life."

An estimated 57 million Americans smoke, which is linked to more than 400,000 deaths annually from cancer, heart attacks, strokes and emphysema. It is the nation's most preventable cause of death.

A cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine. About 1 to 2 milligrams get into the blood stream and hit the brain's reward center within 10 seconds after inhalation.

An average smoker takes 10 puffs per cigarette over a five-minute period. For a person who smokes 1 1/2 packs daily, his brain gets 300 hits of nicotine.

That nicotine plugs into receptor ports on brain cells stimulating the production of dopamine. Dopamine then turns the brain's pleasure center on.

At the same time, nicotine molecules plug into another set of inhibitory neurons, jamming their ability to turn off the pleasure center. The subsequent high lasts about an hour, the time it takes for nicotine in the blood to subside to the point where the inhibitory system can be reactivated.

"There's no other outcome than excitation when you've got nicotine in the system," he added. "It would be hard to design a drug that acts on the reward center that would be more effective than nicotine."

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nati ... news%2Dhed
Quote
Share

Alice
Alice

9:43 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #2

WOW. FASCINATING.
And a great way to start another nicotine free day!
Thanks Joel.
YQS
Alice
bronze plus +
Quote
Share

Joel
Joel

10:03 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #3

I remember in my early days of learning about other drug addictions, it became very obvious to me why crack cocaine was so addictive and why cocaine addicts would go through such great lengths and seemingly sacrifice everything in order to get the drug. It was capable of releasing so much dopamine that it was depleting the body's normal supply. Then when a person would do anything that would normally bring pleasure--with the minimal amount of dopamine left, normal activities that used to bring about pleasure seemed to become empty or meaningless. This is why people using cocaine found themselves losing interest in other things that should have been important--in a real sense--they were losing their ability to get pleasure out of pleasurable things.

It seems that this parallels to a degree what happens to smokers. Not only is nicotine releasing the same neurotransmitter, but it is impairing the mechanism to shut down the action of dopamine. Again, the end result is things that should be pleasurable will become a bit diminished by this chronic action.

The cost of such chronic pleasure is the minimizing of real life. That is what the real toll of smoking is--and the real benefit of quitting. Once again you can feel good from accomplishments. I think that is why people take greater pride in things after they quit.

I always joke with spouses who call me up saying they don't know what they can do to make their husband or wife quit smoking. They often ask me if they should threaten to leave the spouse if he or she doesn't quit. I always warn them to be careful when making such a threat. Giving a smoker a choice between take me or your cigarettes, you'd be surprised at how often "me" is going to be left behind.

Again, here you can see why. The normal pleasures brought about by a relationship are minimized if dopamine is in fact impaired--the smoker is in a sense incapable of feeling as good from a relationship or any other activity.

But the smoker needs to understand that to ever be able to fully appreciate life itself, they need to stop taking drugs that interfere with normal life pleasures. The answer is not to find a drug that works better. As this article so eloquently points out at the end, "It would be hard to design a drug that acts on the reward center that would be more effective than nicotine."

I suspect it could be done though--but the end result would just be another drug that is robbing the user of the ability to feel pleasure from pleasurable things. This in itself is robbing the user of the ability of a quality life.

Yes nicotine being delivered in a cigarette form is addictive and deadly. But even without the other chemicals additional health consequences--nicotine itself is robbing the individual of really experiences little life's pleasures--and this is a travesty in itself. Again, the solution is not another drug that is even better--the solution is to let your body get back to normal and never be thrown so off track again by knowing to never take another puff!

Joel
Quote
Share

Chet Kast (Gold)
Chet Kast (Gold)

10:08 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #4

Hey Joel,

Thanks for this interesting and helpful article. This discovery really helps understand the tremendous addictive qualities contained in nicotine and how they react on the body. I can relate to everything that was said. I copied this article into my library for many future rereads.

Chet
Quote
Share

Joanne Gold
Joanne Gold

10:20 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #5

This really is something - I can't help but shake my head in wonder. Joel, thank you so much for providing us with such an enlightening education on
addiction. I immediately emailed this thread to family and friends who are still trapped. It is a shame that most will choose not to read it.

Sincerely,

Joanne
3 Plus Years Free
Quote
Share

Joanne Gold
Joanne Gold

10:44 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #6

Sorry, me again. It makes sense that in the beginning of my quit my emotions were a bit goofy. Perhaps it wasn't just the grieving process of a big change but adjusting to the "real me" or better yet, becoming comfortable with "true feelings". It actually felt good, an amazing transition. Many of us had been smoking since we were mere children and had no idea what those masked emotions felt like. I truly appreciate what I found.

Okay, I think I am finished now.

With much gratitude - Joanne
Quote
Share

clean (bronze)
clean (bronze)

10:48 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #7

Thanks so much for sharing this article with us Joel. It is fascinating and yet, to someone who was in the grip of nicotine for so many years, not at all surprising. In fact, it certainly helps to explain a lot of what I felt and how I behaved when I was a smoker. Even more reason to be so glad I found this site and the courage to quit.
Quote
Share

John (Gold)
John (Gold)

11:19 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #8

Wow Joel! That's the best article find we've had in some time and look where it's from --- CHICAGO --- and the University of Chicago! Was the researcher a child of one of your early clinic participants? With your reinforcement articles laying around houses all over Chicago, I wouldn't be a bit surprised!

Slowly, the research is tying together. From your comments and articles like this it's getting easier to make sense of the findings of those scientists studying teen smoking and its relation to very early signs of chronic depression, in a frightening percentage of youth. We can hear and almost measure our lungs paying a terrible price, and we know that nicotine is clogging every major artery in our body, but what price is the brain paying? In some ways, I almost don't want to know ! Thanks Joel!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long! John
Quote
Share

GrumpyOMrsS (Gold)
GrumpyOMrsS (Gold)

11:52 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #9

Hi Joel,

My Hal went to a continuing education seminar last month and the speaker was a doctor who is an addictions expert and expert consultant to the state boards of phamacy and medicine. He spoke on how to spot or recognize patients who are addicted to prescription medications and how and why many drugs are so easily abused.

He also adressed nicotine and said basically what your articles above said....."there is NO other drug that affects the dopomine and other centers of the brain like nicotine. It creates pleasure, it destroys pleasure, it acts as a high and it acts as a depressant. It's ability to alter the mind is tremendous. It's ability to alter our body is yet another story.

thank you,

Linda
over 2 years free
Quote
Share

improud (golder)
improud (golder)

11:55 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #10

Being the addict that I am when I was in the smoking world, I never really realized that nicotine was giving me a "high" and that nicotine was masking my true feelings which at the time I didn't have a clue what my feelings were I just "needed that every 20 minute fix. How bizarre. Thanks Joel. I'm glad to now get my high from a nicotine free life. Cathy ~ GOLD CLUB
Quote
Share

Joel
Joel

11:56 PM - Mar 14, 2002 #11

For all of you science buffs out there. The article on the Internet link does not show some accompanying graphics in the actual Tribune that gave a little more detail about the mechanism that is supposed to shut off the dopamine effects. The other neurotransmitter involved is acetylcholine which is supposed to turn off the dopamine rewarding effect. Nicotine seems to block acetylcholine, so the reward mechanism of dopamine is not shut off in the presence of nicotine, making the reward effect last longer than would normally be experienced from a dopamine release initiated by a good behavior.
Quote
Share

childofnite GOLD.ffn
childofnite GOLD.ffn

1:47 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #12

Hi Joel!!

Thanks so much for sharing ths article with us - It basically should be no surprise to all of us here at Freedom who have known this all along, but it sure is sweet when scientists - people other than ourselves - can substatiate our claims.

This article, and your subsequent post makes its way into my virtual library, to be printed off for those around me still enslaved.

Diana
7 Months, 2 Weeks, 3 Days.
Quote
Share

wcsdancer (Gold)
wcsdancer (Gold)

2:25 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #13

Joel, thank you again for this priceless information. I have often wondered "what are we getting out of smoking?". It doesn't produce an obvious "high" like other addictive drugs. This article answered my question and then poses others:

What happens to our dopamine production when we quit? Do these years of abuse permanently affect us? Is this why some of us experience depression right after quitting? How do we restore normal function to this part of our brain?

Why did the craving for nicotine seem even stronger after a surge in dopamine from natural dopamine producers such as the events mentioned in the article?:

"Experiences such as falling in love, getting a big promotion, coloring between the lines for the first time, seeing your baby's smile and winning the lottery promote some of the biggest dopamine jolts. Eating a good meal, making a new friend, taking a walk on the first morning of spring, working a crossword puzzle and other less intense learning experiences get less of the pleasure chemical"

Understanding this addiction has been the key to beating it. Knowledge is more powerful than dopamine apparently! Or maybe knowledge produces dopamine?!

*Candy* 4months+
Quote
Share

Rosemary (Gold)
Rosemary (Gold)

2:47 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #14

I heard a discussion about this on National Public Radio this morning. I was going to post the info I got, but it seems that you have beat me to it.

As I listened this morning, I was even more amazed that I got out from under this addiction. I also felt cheated. I thought of all the times I was unhappily sitting unstill at a non-smoker's house. I wonder if that vauge unease that I got at the thought of visiting some of our friends was simply because they did not let me smoke at their houses. I am sorry that I have spent 23 years of my life using a drug just to experience normal feelings of contentment and happiness.

I am remembering my family's trip to Disney World (Orlando) last February . I am sad and ironically amused at how I had to plan our path around the park so that I could stop at the smoking stations along the way. And I sat alone (while everyone else was on rides) inhaling my drug, because I could not have a good time without it. On that trip, I first realized that I could no longer enjoy myself without smoking, but I was not enjoying myself while I was smoking either. I resolved to quit.

It has taken me almost a whole year, and a few uneducated tries, but here I am, educated, and finally nicotine free! The information that I got from this site has been the little nudge that has put me over top of this quit. My thanks to all who contribute.

Rosemary--smoke-free for 1 Month 3 Days 13 Hours 14 Minutes. Cigarettes not smoked: 631. Money saved: $157.76.
Quote
Share

floridaroys
floridaroys

3:17 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #15

Rosemary, I can really relate to that. I remember so many situations where I would be and my mind was really on getting out of there to have a cig. I would be at my inlaws, and I couldn't wait to get outside for a smoke...or shopping at the mall, and dying for a smoke.....or just anything! It was horrible...now I can actually go and enjoy myself in whatever it is and not be waiting for that moment to have my drug! What a waste of time and oh how many precious moments I missed with my kids because my mind was on getting outside for my smoke. Thank goodness they are only 8, 7, and 5 and are home/homeschooled...I plan to make up for those lost moments standing on the front porch smoking instead of sitting down paying attention to what they were saying! thanks again for your email Rosemary! Blessings, Terri~
Quote
Share

John (Gold)
John (Gold)

3:28 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #16

Candy those are all wonderful questions and I'll bet that together, as a group, that we've got at least a dozen more good ones to go with your list. I hope I live long enough to see science answer most of them. All we can promise is that if there's ever breaking news on nicotine addiction that it will be a topic of discussion at Freedom! As we've seen today, like some 15th century explorer, they're still mapping nicotine's flow through the brain! It's easy to see why they call the human mind the "Last Frontier!" Knowledge is power! Feel the rush when you take pride in your quit! That was no drug, it was you!
Quote
Share

mirigirl (silver)
mirigirl (silver)

4:38 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #17

Oh my God - of course, yes, yes - thank you Joel, thank you Freedom.... I'm Free
yqs mirigirl
2m1w Free
Quote
Share

Joel
Joel

5:30 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #18

Hello Candy:

I don't think science has the answers to some of your questions yet. But people here at Freedom and people you know in your real world settings can shed some great insights for you. First, I suspect most things do return to normal. I just brought up the post I feel 100% Better Since I Quit! If dopamine actions were permanently messed up in ex-smokers, I don't think you would hear many people express this sentiment. Sure they might breath better, but most people who express this statement are talking more than just breathing.

Most people find out that within a few weeks of quitting smoking, they are calmer than they ever were when actually smoking--or at least back to their baseline. Most claim they have more energy, and many people who I have had in clinics who were found that there overall concentration improved. When these people are students, they often subsequently find their grades and study patterns improving too.

Some of them attribute this effect to being able to concentrate at the tail end of classes more so than they could while smoking--basically being in withdrawal and focused on getting out of class as fast as they could as opposed to be focusing on the subject matter. Again, if dopamine were permanently messed up I don't think you would see these kind of performance enhancements.

In the first few days of quitting things are a bit out of whack for people. But shortly things do fall in place. One other thing I should point out--dopamine does not answer the whole story when it comes to nicotine addiction. Keep in mind, most other drugs also elevate dopamine. But the addiction to nicotine is very specifically an addiction to nicotine. By that I mean they only way a person is going to relapse to nicotine is by readministering nicotine.

Taking another drug that elevates dopamine does not cause nicotine withdrawals or a nicotine relapse. Accomplishing a great feat and releasing dopamine naturally does not cause the person to go through a full three days of nicotine withdrawal. It may trigger the thought for a cigarette--but that is likely much more from the association that they used to smoke when they felt this level of excitement. Or, as in the case of the new findings here, if they hold up to further testing, they may have smoked to celebrate not so much to just pour in more dopamine, but rather to inactivate acetylcholine making the thrill of the accomplishment last longer.

Again, listen to ex-smokers and listen to your own bodies. You will likely hear the obvious--that you feel better, are healthier and will probably live longer and have a better quality of overall life as long as you always remember to never take another puff!

Joel
Quote
Share

Alice
Alice

6:12 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #19

Wow. Again.
YQS
Alice
Quote
Share

murphying (Gold)
murphying (Gold)

6:21 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #20

What a marvellous explanatory article Joel! I have to admit that I was never aware of getting a 'high' from any of the 50plus cigarettes a day I smoked - feel kinda cheated there lol.
Thanks for the education
Ingrid
Quote
Share

John (Gold)
John (Gold)

6:40 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #21

Ingrid, don't you remember the aaaahhhhhhh feeling that arrived within 8 to 10 seconds of a new puff? An almost constant dopamine output was our new sense of normal. Did you go an hour without a new fix? Not this kid! About every 15 minutes I was tanking up again! I was Mayor of Dopamineville! The lure that captured each of us was the unaddicted aaaaahhhhhh sensation but once captive, it was no longer a matter of choice but of necessity. My captive aaaaahhhhhs were the feeling of raising my falling blood serum nicotine level so that I didn't have to keep sensing the signs of early withdrawal that I knew were always just around the corner. Some of Joel's articles talk about the "Perfect Smoke" but for me the best one was always the first one each day after going the whole night without a fix or maybe after a meal where I had not been able to smoke for the better part of an hour.
Quote
Share

murphying (Gold)
murphying (Gold)

6:50 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #22

I guess I smoked too constantly to allow myself to get anywhere 'needing' a fix! However there were times when I couldn't have one for a period of time that I do remember that aaaaahhhhhh sensation. As far as that first one in the morning...well I was too busy coughing to be aware that it was pleasurable! I don't cough at all now by the way - the human body has a wonderful recovery mechanism!!
Quote
Share

wcsdancer (Gold)
wcsdancer (Gold)

7:28 AM - Mar 15, 2002 #23

Right on Brother John!! And very cool "syapse" gif to boot!

Thanks again for your patience Joel, and for answering even more of the endless questions! OK, let me see if I get this...the reason I smoked more during times of "elation" was to possibly arrest the acetylcholine thus insuring continued dopamine release? Very clever that nicotine, double dipping in the pleasure centers! Well, I do think my dopamine has returned to normal and there is so much pleasure in life without the torture of nicotine addiction. Just fearful of the damage I've already done, ironic isn't it? I killed myself daily by smoking without a thought, now that's behind me...I start to worry about the damage done! I can't go back in time, I can only continue to gain more education and of course Never Take Another Puff!!

*Candy* 4months
Quote
Share

Alice
Alice

10:28 PM - Mar 15, 2002 #24

I can't let this post rest and slide to the bottom. I love reading what everyone is saying about how controlling nicotine is and how it once controlled us. It's so true. Keep posting. And we'll all learn alot about it's addictive-ness. Is that a word?
Thanks. I love this new information on dopamine and what Grumpy said too about the dual effect - - desire/repulsion, mind controlling, a real nasty drug.
OK
Have another great nicotine free day of FREEDOM
YQS
Alice
Quote
Share

LA 1
LA 1

2:38 PM - Apr 03, 2002 #25

Thanks, Joel. Very informative.

I can't believe the endless power of this "beast."

(e.g., " ...they may have smoked to celebrate not so much to just pour in more dopamine, but rather to inactivate acetylcholine making the thrill of the accomplishment last longer...")

This is ALL making so much sense to me now....

Thanks for the education. I feel like I'm being armed for battle. And I'm grateful.

Laura
Quote
Share