November 28, 2011
Nicotine Gateway Drug To Cocaine Abuse

The demon weed tobacco makes brains more prone to cocaine addiction.

Cigarettes and alcohol serve as gateway drugs, which people use before progressing to the use of marijuana and then to cocaine and other illicit substances; this progression is called the "gateway sequence" of drug use. An article in Science Translational Medicine by Amir Levine, MD, Denise Kandel, PhD; Eric Kandel, MD; and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center provides the first molecular explanation for the gateway sequence. They show that nicotine causes specific changes in the brain that make it more vulnerable to cocaine addiction -- a discovery made by using a novel mouse model.

So teens smoking because they think its cool are putting themselves at greater risk of a long assortment of degenerative diseases (cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and a huge number of others) plus greater risk of becoming a coke fiend.

Don't let nicotine tweak your brain's striatum and inhibit your histone deacetylase.

Alternate orders of exposure to nicotine and cocaine were examined. The authors found that pretreatment with nicotine greatly alters the response to cocaine in terms of addiction-related behavior and synaptic plasticity (changes in synaptic strength) in the striatum, a brain region critical for addiction-related rewards. On a molecular level, nicotine also primes the response to cocaine by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme -- histone deacetylase -- in the striatum. This inhibition enhances cocaine's ability to activate a gene called FosB gene, which promotes addiction.

The relationship between nicotine and cocaine was found to be unidirectional: nicotine dramatically enhances the response to cocaine, but there is no effect of cocaine on the response to nicotine. Nicotine's ability to inhibit histone deacetylase thus provides a molecular mechanism for the gateway sequence of drug use.

Most coke heads were smokers before cokers.

Nicotine enhances the effects of cocaine only when it is administered for several days prior to cocaine treatment and is given concurrently with cocaine. These findings stimulated a new analysis of human epidemiological data, which shows that the majority of cocaine users start using cocaine only after they have begun to smoke and while they are still active smokers. People who begin using cocaine after they've started smoking have an increased risk of cocaine dependency, compared with people who use cocaine first and then take up smoking.

We need drugs that will reverse the effects of cocaine and nicotine on the brain.

The researchers are interested to find out whether alcohol and marijuana cause similar changes to the brain.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 November 28 10:03 PM  Brain Addiction

Jessica said at November 29, 2011 8:26 AM:

My beliefs are that smoking is not necessarily a gateway to drug addictions. The biggest issues would seem to begin with dysfunctional family or personal life, depressive illness, and/or one's personal associations, The addictions snowball from there. Families aren't always what they should be, therefore, breeding problems.

Mike Anderson said at November 29, 2011 9:53 AM:

Oh goody. Now two of the most odious subcultures in America, the Anti-Smokers and the Drug Warriors, have scripture to join forces. If only there were some cutting-edge research that could rope in the Evangelistic Vegans and the Temperance Movement, all the scolds of American could make common cause.

Lono said at November 30, 2011 12:00 PM:

Hmm... it is interesting to me that I never took to smoking Tobacco - and I very quickly formed a dislike for Cocaine as well...

Perhaps my anti-tobacco policy offered a protective effect.

Cocaine and Tobacco FTL!

Ned Wicker said at December 1, 2011 5:36 PM:

This is an important study especially because it focuses on the adolescent brain. When a teen uses drugs it is much more likely to lead to dependence because their brain is still developing. The longer drug and alcohol use is delayed the less likely it will lead to dependence.

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