Nicotine Habit May Develop as Quickly as Cocaine Addiction

By Staff Writer

Many individuals believe that they can smoke an occasional cigarette and not have to worry about becoming addicted. However, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that a single cigarette may have a similar effect on the brain as one hit of cocaine, and addiction may occur rapidly.

Medical professionals have long known that cocaine addiction can result from just one use. However, it was thought that tobacco addiction took longer to take hold.

Yet after studying the effects of nicotine on specific areas of rat brains, researchers from the University of Chicago found that the equivalent of one cigarette excited cells in the reward centers of the brain in the same way as cocaine. These cells quickly became accustomed to the pleasurable effects of the drugs, forming an addiction.

While the researchers said that nicotine and cocaine addiction clearly have different impacts on a user’s life, they appear to operate along similar neural pathways. The findings could help doctors understand the processes that underlie the addiction more completely, enabling them design more effective addiction rehab programs.