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Imaging study affords renewed thrust on smoking cessation treatments

A novel imaging study has indicated the potency of just a few puffs of cigarette that is capable of inducing strong cravings to continue smoking. // Researchers found that the amount of nicotine present in a single puff is capable of filling nearly 30% of the brain’s nicotine receptors and 3 puffs can occupy nearly 70% of these receptors. The smoker experiences the high of smoking when all the receptors are filled up. But this feeling of satisfaction lasts only for a short time. The cravings only increase with time which is why the smoker continues to feed those cravings and soon ends up smoking through out the day.

"Imaging studies such as this can add immensely to our understanding of addiction and drug abuse," says Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health. "These findings suggest that drug therapies or vaccines for smoking cessation need to be extremely potent to compete with nicotine, which binds so readily to these receptors."

The study is published in the August 2006 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"This study illustrates the powerfully addictive impact of even small amounts of nicotine. Every time a smoker draws a puff from a cigarette, they inhale numerous toxic chemicals that promote the formation of lung cancer, and contribute in a significant way to death and disability worldwide," says NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "Although many smokers endorse a desire to quit, very few are able to do so on their own, and fewer than half are able to quit long-term even with comprehensive treatment. This study helps explain why."

The scientists, led by Dr. Arthur Brody of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of 11 smokers and assess nicotine distribution there. During the scanning sessions, the participants smoked one of five amounts--none, one puff, three puffs, one full cigarette, or until their craving was satisfied
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