Study Reveals Possible Connection Between Drug Abuse and E-Cigarettes

nicotinenejmAs an emerging alternative to smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes have become the subject of tons of research. A recent study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine explains results that nicotine in any form serves as a “gateway drug” priming the brain for harder drugs to keep the reward system satisfied. Husband-wife researchers, Denise Kandel and Eric Kandel, have been studying nicotine for years and their recent findings reveal risks associated with the newly popular e-cigarette.

Interestingly enough, when nicotine was administered to mice before cocaine, they responded more powerfully to the cocaine compared to the mice that did not receive nicotine. The reason is that nicotine stimulates a reward-related gene, which causes dramatically enhanced effects of cocaine. Lowered inhibitions are also a reported symptom of the nicotine/cocaine combination.

Once the reward gene is activated, the mice behaved differently on cocaine. They were more active and spent an excessive amount of time in the area where they received their food. The scientists believe that this is because they were craving cocaine and were attempting to satisfy that craving by seeking out more from the space where they were fed.

E-cigarettes were originally introduced as a healthier alternative to smoking. The devices do not contain the tar and chemicals that cigarettes do, however they do have the same amount of nicotine. The idea was that smokers could get their nicotine fix without the dangerous components that are in cigarettes. E-cigarettes were advertised as the best way to quit smoking. Many people have embraced e-cigarettes and big tobacco companies have become invested, but not that much research was available before they hit the market.

The connection between e-cigarettes and cocaine is alarming to some because a device that was intended to help people quit smoking cigarettes may actually lead to more dangerous behavior.

“This is a powerful facilitator for addiction to cocaine and perhaps other drugs as well. If people knew that this is in fact the danger they’d be much less enthusiastic about using nicotine,” explains Eric Kandel. Addressing the damage that nicotine has on the brain is a bit of a new take – as most people focus on the damage that it creates in the body.

“We’ve worked very hard to reduce smoking in this country, and I think it’s been a fantastic success,” Denise says. With the introduction of e-cigarettes, “Now I think we’re on the verge of destroying all of the progress that we’ve [made].”

About Blake Nichols

Blake Nichols is the Director of Operations at Desert Cove Recovery. Blake battled his own addiction to drugs and alcohol and was given the gift of recovery at the age of 23. Since 2008, Blake has dedicated his life and career to the field of addiction. He has experience in all aspects of addiction treatment including direct care, admissions, marketing, and administration.
Blake feels that the greatest reward of working in the recovery field is being part of the transformation that a person goes through from the time they arrive and begin treatment, through the hard work and the Miracle of recovery, and ultimately the change into a confident and capable person ready to carry the message of recovery.
"My career has focused on serving others. I have accepted ownership of my responsibilities as that is the key to working at the highest level of professionalism. I have worked to be positive and offer solution-based suggestions in my work and personal life."