Tag Archives: national institute on drug abuse

There May be a Very Good Reason Why Coffee and Cigarettes Often Seem to go Hand in Hand

A Kansas State University psychology professor’s research suggests that nicotine’s power may be in how it enhances other experiences.

For a smoker who enjoys drinking coffee, the nicotine may make a cup of joe even better.

And that offer another explaination why smoking is so hard to quit.

“People have very regimented things they do when they smoke,” said Matthew Palmatier, assistant professor of psychology at K-State. “If you think about where people smoke or who they smoke with, you realize that it occurs in very specific places, often with a specific group of people.

Maybe it’s a reason why nicotine is so addictive — if you get used to having that extra satisfaction from things you normally enjoy, not having nicotine could reduce the enjoyment in a given activity.

“People may not be smoking to obtain a pleasurable drug state. They may be smoking in order to regulate their mood, and that effect could make nicotine more addictive than other drugs.”

Palmatier said much previous research on nicotine addiction has looked at the drug itself rather than the other factors he is studying.

“The approach we’re taking is out of left field,” he said. “But it seems to be one of the best explanations as to why people smoke.”

Palmatier has a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to understand how this phenomenon can be used to better design tobacco addiction treatments, usually offered in stop smoking aids, like patches and pills. He began psychological research in addiction as a graduate student and later began researching the reinforcing effects of nicotine.

Coffee and Cigarettes“The big picture is trying to figure out why people smoke,” Palmatier said. “There are a lot of health risks, and the majority of smokers already know what they are. They want to quit but can’t. It’s not because nicotine is a potent drug; it doesn’t induce significant amounts of pleasure or euphoria. Yet, it’s just as difficult if not more difficult to quit than other drugs.”

At K-State, Palmatier studies rats that are allowed to self-administer nicotine by pushing a lever. The main source of light in their testing environment shuts off when the rats earn a dose of nicotine. After about a minute, the light comes back on to signal that more nicotine is available.

By manipulating this signal, Palmatier and his colleagues found that the rats weren’t really that interested in nicotine by itself.

“We figured out that what the rats really liked was turning the light off,” Palmatier said. “They still self-administered the nicotine, but they took more of the drug when it was associated with a reinforcing light.”

Palmatier and colleagues published a paper on their research in the August issue of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Palmatier has begun looking at how rats respond to sweet tastes after having nicotine. He said preliminary results show that nicotine has comparable effects on sweet tastes. That is, rats respond more for sugar-water solutions after getting nicotine.

“The taste aspect is really important because we can actually figure out how nicotine is increasing the subjects’ behavior,” Palmatier said. “If it makes a reward more pleasurable, then it may increase the palatability of a sweet taste.”

Palmatier said that a future phase of research would be determining whether nicotine can make unpleasant experiences more tolerable, helping explain why lighting up after a bad day at work can be tempting.

Contact: Beth Bohn
Kansas State University

Corticosterone, Genetics And The Addiction Of Nicotine

Individual brain chemistry and genes could be key to understanding why some people become addicted to nicotine and why the chemical compound’s effects appear to diminish at night, University of Colorado at Boulder researchers say.

“The depth of a person’s addiction to nicotine appears to depend on his or her unique internal chemistry and genetic make-up,” said lead author Jerry Stitzel, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder’s department of integrative physiology and researcher with CU-Boulder’s Institute for Behavioral Genetics.

He and his team set out to evaluate the effects of nicotine over the course of a day by examining mice that could make and “recognize” melatonin, a powerful hormone and antioxidant, and others that could not. Scientists believe that melatonin, which is produced by darkness, tells our bodies when to sleep.

The CU researchers found that the reduced effects of nicotine at night were dependent on the mice’s genetic make-up and whether their brains and bodies were able to recognize melatonin. They also found that the daytime effects of nicotine were greatest when levels of the stress hormone corticosterone were high.

The second finding could explain why many smokers report that the first cigarette of the day is the most satisfying. Cortisol, the human equivalent of corticosterone, is at peak levels in the early morning, Stitzel said.

“The negative health consequences of smoking have become well known, and a large majority of smokers say that they would like to quit,” Stitzel said. “As such, we need to understand the interaction between smoking, genes and internal chemistry so we can target new therapies to those who have a hard time quitting.”

While the team’s research could shed light on why people smoke and how nicotine affects them, Stitzel says more research is needed to determine the role that melatonin plays in altering the effects of nicotine, and whether the correlation between higher corticosterone levels and nicotine sensitivity is a coincidence.

The CU-Boulder study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

CorticosteroneResearchers from Yale, Florida State, the University of Minnesota and the Baylor College of Medicine also presented findings based on research into the effects of smoking and nicotine.

Among their conclusions: Smoking may predispose adolescents to mental disorders in adolescence and adulthood; a network of neurons, or cells in the nervous system, may regulate the body’s craving response; and smoking may affect decision-making.

– University of Colorado at Boulder

*Thanks goes to Cuckoo from AS3 for submission to CF.