Duke Nicotine Research Conference Examines Tobacco Addiction

Studies for many years have connected the desire of cigarette smokers to nicotine. But scientists are starting to pick apart the more than 4,000 other chemicals found in tobacco to find other evidence regarding addiction. The Duke Nicotine Research Conference, in its 19th year, brought together about 80 scientists from California and even Sweden at the Durham Convention Center in order to study the role of non-nicotine tobacco elements in addiction and treatment.

Jed E. Rose, chief of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation, which also has offices in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, concentrates on treatment development and the effects of nicotine and alcohol on the brain. He is co-inventor of the nicotine skin patch and is now working with Philip Morris International, famous Marlboro cigarettes maker, to create a nicotine inhaler to help lower the harm of smoking.

He said that scientists only begin to study the other chemicals in tobacco through experiments with animal and human models. Recently Duke led an experiment with rats, in which the animals would press a lever or press their nose to a particular spot to receive nicotine a mix of tobacco. The rats have chosen the tobacco mixture.

Rose asked about what else is there about tobacco that makes it more addictive than nicotine in isolation. How can a man be so addicted to something that doesn’t get them high. He reffered to a study made several years ago that made people choose between smoking cigarettes without nicotine and receiving nicotine through an IV. They preferred the act of smoking, the full sensory experience.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that every year, almost 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke and another 8.6 million live with a disease caused by smoking. However, about 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes.

Rose, together with other researchers, is looking into new quit-smoking treatments that will not only take nicotine into consideration, but also other factors in tobacco that may satisfy cravings. Tobacco industry makes changes, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration starts to more closely regulate e-cigarettes and scientists steer away from the �quit or die� mentality to provide people a clean source of nicotine and other satisfying substances, without the carbon monoxide, tar, formaldehyde, ammonia and other harmful substances that are presented in cigarette smoke.

Researchers on Thursday presented their findings, especially in regard to monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, which block the breakdown of neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers used to communicate between brain cells. MAO inhibitors are found in cigarette smoke.

MAO inhibition drugs are usually used in depression treatments and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The major question is if smokers are self-medicating, said Joanna Fowler, a senior chemist and director of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Radiotracer Chemistry, Instrumentation and Biological Imaging Program. Rose said a smoker’s brain shows less MAO activity, and research is connecting the inhibitor characteristics of cigarette smoke to a form of anti-depressant. When a smoker quits, there appear signs of depression.


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