Monday, November 7, 2011


EMBRACE COCAINE, STUDY SAYS - Smoking may increase the chances of someone abusing cocaine later in life by priming the brain to be more receptive to the Class A drug, say scientists.  
The landmark study, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Maryland, is the first to show how nicotine can change the brain in a way that enhances the behavioural effects of cocaine.  It could help explain why so many drug-using teenagers tend to start with cigarettes and alcohol before moving on to more illegal substances.  
The idea that taking legal drugs could make a person more vulnerable to illegal drugs has caused much controversy since it was first suggested in 1975. This is the first study to find a biological mechanism which could prove such a causal link does exist.  In the current study, scientists from Columbia University in New York, found mice exposed to nicotine through their drinking water for one week showed an increased response to cocaine.  

This priming effect depended on the previously unrecognised impact that nicotine made on gene expression. It was found to reprogram specific genes linked to addiction ultimately making the brain more responsive to harder drugs.  The team found that the results paralleled findings in humans after they reexamined statistics from the 2003 National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Related Consequences.  They found that the rate of cocaine dependence was higher among cocaine users who smoked prior to starting cocaine compared to those who tried cocaine prior to smoking.  The findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest smoking prevention would not only prevent the damaging effects of the habit but could also decrease the risk of progression and addiction to cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Nicotine appears to be a potent “gateway” drug that enhances the effects of cocaine and boosts the chances of becoming addicted, says this study.  Nicotine influences substances called histone proteins in the reward center of the brain that in turn activates certain genes and leads to an exaggerated response to cocaine.  Substances such as nicotine, alcohol and marijuana are described as gateway drugs because they are typically used prior to experimentation with other drugs in search of some kind of misunderstood material happiness.

People are turning to alcohol, drugs. Why? Because they are frustrated, they are lonely. ... In some countries it says the Surgeon General declares that cigarette causes heart disease and blood pressure diseases and cancer, lung diseases, has a whole list, pregnancy defects. Some people say it may kill you, some say it is injurious to health and then people are smoking. Just to show the world I am willing to risk my life, I am willing to sacrifice everything to be cool! ... I was recently in an airport and a man and a woman they were smoking cigarettes. The man would go, whoosh! and the woman would go whoosh! They were blowing the smoke in their faces. It was their ultimate romance for them. I was watching, not for too long. This is madness. First they are killing themselves then they are killing the other person; and this is their idea of romance.

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