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Quitting Not Easy for Smokers Born to Smoking Women

Smokers born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy may find it difficult to stop smoking according to a recent study//.

A recent animal research suggests that individuals exposed to nicotine while in the womb may find it difficult to quit smoking. Duke University Medical Center researchers conducted this research.

Prenatal exposure to nicotine is known to alter areas of the brain critical to learning, memory and reward. Scientists at the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research have discovered that these alterations may program the brain for relapse to nicotine addiction. Rodents exposed to nicotine before birth self-administer more of the drug after periods of abstinence than those that had not been exposed.

The study suggests that pregnant women should quit smoking to avoid exposing their unborn children to nicotine, and that they should do so without the use of nicotine products such as patches or gums that also present a risk to the baby, the researchers said.

"Smoking during pregnancy can harm the baby in ways that extend far beyond preterm delivery or low birth weight," said lead study investigator Edward Levin, Ph.D., a professor of biological psychiatry. "It causes changes in the brain development of the baby that can last a lifetime."

Results of the study appear this week in the online issue of the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and Philip Morris USA supported the work.

Levin's team exposed pregnant rats to nicotine. Once the offspring grew to adolescence, they were allowed to self-administer nicotine as often as they wanted. To self-administer the drug, the rats pressed a lever that caused a dose of nicotine to be delivered intravenously. Each push of the lever was roughly equivalent to a hit from a cigarette.

The researchers studied two groups of rats: those that had been exposed to nicotine prenatally
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