A Conversation for Cigarettes

Dopamine? - tobacco as "gateway drug"

Post 1

thehumanduvet

I'm not entirely sure of my facts on this, having garnered all I know from a half-watched channel 4 documentary (the Heroin section of their recent Drug season) but I'll try to give the gist of what I gathered and would be very grateful if anyone could say if this is actually based in any kind of real good science.

As part of a look at heroin and the catastrophic drug war of the 20th Century, and in a section on the oft-propounded theory that cannabis is some kind of "gateway" drug, "leading to harder things", the filmmakers wheeled out a scientist who said that smoking, that is to say being addicted to nicotine, lowers the levels of one of the pleasure chemicals in the brain (I think it may have been dopamine - see http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/A151507 for details). The effect of having lower levels of this leads, as you would expect, to lower levels of overall happiness and greater likelihood of depression etc, as well as having the side-effect of making the high of hard, Class A drugs seem even higher, by comparison with the naturally low state. If there is any truth in this, not only does it instantly kick to the curb any crazy ideas that cannabis, the wonder drug, is in any way linked to physically addictive drugs (apart fom the fact that prohibition has led its followers into the clutches of ruthless dealers out to grasp every penny they can out of you by flogging you more expensive, more addictive (and more dangerous) stuff (as well as leading to a shortage of cannabis leaf for mixing, requiring the cannanbis smoker to combine his weed with addictive tobacco to ensure a smooth burn)), but it also shows, quite comprehensively, that smoking, as well as being a clear "gateway" to hard drugs, rendering them more pleasurable, ACTUALLY MAKES YOU UNHAPPY! Why the hell were we never told this before? They go on and on all the time about smoking making you less able to run long distances and more likely to get cancers in mid- to old-age (like most fifteen-year-olds really care about that stuff), surely a more effective method of dissuading people from smoking is that it MESSES WITH YOUR BRAIN and MAKES YOU SADDER! Sorry for all this shouting but this whole thing has come as a real eye-opener for me, if anyone out there can shed any light on the truth or otherwise of this little story I would be extremely grateful for their input. Thanks for your kind attention to my little rant, thehumanduvet (now dedicated to quitting)


Smoking and hard drugs

Post 2

Caron

I have done some informal research on this matter in the geographic area known as greater Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Fully 98% of admitted hard drug addicts (addicts) in "re-hab" programs smoke. All of these smoked cigarettes before using hard drugs. The adult (over 18) addicts in question are mostly in re-hab as a result of court orders; the younger addicts as a result of parental, school, or juvenile correctional authority actions. Virtually none are there voluntarily - this may skew the sample.

Of course, not all smokers are (or become) hard drug users, but it seems to be accepted that nicotine is an addictive drug.

This leads to the thought that smoking may be an "enabling" step in hard drug addiction, since so few non-smokers become addicts. If the above statistic holds up, it would even appear that smoking is statistically an essential precursor to addiction.

I have no hard data on why this should be the case. Theories abound, including the ever popular "addictive personality," and the simpler, more appealing, theory that once you have taken any addictive drug you are more likely to take another - the first step is always the most difficult.

The addictive personality, it is asserted, has no hard-wired behavioural controls over addictive drugs. Once such a person has "tried" a drug, they will be unable subsequently to refuse it. Parallels are often given with compulsive gambling and alcohol abuse, but I did not find the strong correlation between either of these traits and hard drugs that I found between hard drugs and smoking.

This seems to be an area ripe for serious research. If anyone is aware of such research I would like to follow its progress.


Smoking and hard drugs

Post 3

schmooze

ahem. cigarette smoking, like heroin use, triggers the release of dopamine in the mesolimbic reward pathway in the brain. dopamine is a pleasure chemical. that's why nicotine is so addictive, it makes your brain think it's enjoying itself. i have never heard that it damages your brain's ability to produce dopamine, although there is evidence that other drugs can do, such as cannabis - long term, heavy cannabis use can lead to permanent depression because it mucks around with your dopamine and serotonin production. so who knows? maybe nicotine can too.

in terms of finding out more about it, there would be heaps of research about it, probably. try to get access to a database called medline, or another one called psychinfo - any university in the world will subscribe to these databases.

the schmooze


Smoking and hard drugs

Post 4

Electra

Nicotine is totally the gateway drug as opposed to cannabis. How many pot smokers didn't smoke cigs first? and to be fair the word 'joint' is used meaning a joining of tobacco and cannabis. Besides that nicotine is far more addictive than pot-whilst at work I crave cigs, but not pot.........


Smoking and hard drugs

Post 5

alji's

Electra, Click [ edit and write an intro so that someone can welcome you to h2g2 ]. If you click on 'Who's Online' you can see the researchers names, clicking any of these will take you to their 'Space' where you can see what they have contributed to H2G2. If you click on my name (the one at the top), you will load my page.
(I use classic goo)


Alji, smiley - zensmiley - wizard of the Red Dragon (Swynwr y Ddraig Goch) (conducting a sun sign poll at A712595)(Member of The Guild of Wizards U197895 looking for wiz kids to join, though you don't have to be a wiz kid just know a bit about some subject that you think will be of interest to others or just bore the pants off them. This is an equall opportunities space open to all sexes, ages and abilities)


Smoking and hard drugs

Post 6

Sea Change

A good 2/3 of the smokers I know are coffee fiends. Perhaps coffee is the true gateway drug? I find these folks to be uncontrollably mildly mentally unbalanced if either the coffee or cigs are delayed or of different quality or intensity from that they are habituated to. Maybe the 'up' of coffee is a good mix with the 'down' of the cigarette, for total mood control.


Smoking and hard drugs

Post 7

purplejenny

I think people have been getting out of thier heads one way or another for as long as anyone could imagine doing so. I'm unconvinced by the 'slippery slope' idea, as i suspect that people on hard drugs are seeking a release that they would try anything and bear any consequences to get. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/classic/A666182 The reason they need that release is the issue, not the means by which they seek it. And if nicotine or coffee or coke or cocaine or crack or smack didn't exist they would look for another route to self-destructive distraction.


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Dopamine? - tobacco as "gateway drug"

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