Nicotine: Is It a Potential Gateway Drug?

If one wished to see evidence of the need for substance abuse intervention in Florida to focus on treating patients for addiction to nicotine as well as to other drugs, they would only need to look to a landmark study conducted in 2011. Researchers at New York’s Columbia University identified a biological mechanism possibly helping to explain tobacco products’ role as gateway drugs that prime the brain for addiction to cocaine.

The gateway model arose from epidemiological evidence of people’s use of tobacco products or alcohol before illicit drug use. This has raised the controversial question of whether a causal relation exists between prior exposure to such drugs as nicotine, alcohol or marijuana, and the later abuse of other substances. Prior to the 2011 study’s findings, no biological mechanism had yet been shown making clear that the risk of illegal drug use could be heightened by nicotine exposure.

However, in the Columbia University study, published in Science Translational Medicine, an increased response to cocaine was shown in mice that had been exposed to nicotine in their drinking water for a minimum of seven days. Attempts have now been made to connect this finding to surveys previously done on humans, such as one study that found 81 per cent of young people using cocaine to also be active tobacco smokers.

Such new information could inform approaches to substance SizeGenetics abuse intervention in Florida and elsewhere, suggesting that it could be greatly beneficial to treat a person’s nicotine addiction at the same time as their cocaine addiction, instead of detoxing them with cocaine while permitting them to continue smoking. In the words of the study’s senior author, M.D. of Columbia University Medical Center Eric Kandel, “Now that we have a mouse model of the actions of nicotine as a gateway drug, this will allow us to explore the molecular mechanisms by which alcohol and marijuana might act as gateway drugs.”

The statistics certainly vouch for the importance of substance abuse intervention in Florida that acknowledges nicotine’s potential role as a gateway drug. Nicotine is highly addictive as well as one of the most frequently used drugs, with a 2009 survey finding that almost 70 million Americans aged at least 12 had used a tobacco product at least once in the previous month. Cigarette smokers are also at greater risk of lung cancer, emphysema, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease, with nine in 10 U.S. lung cancers cases being attributable to cigarette smoking.

Such statistics, alongside the findings of the 2011 study, only further affirm the importance of substance abuse intervention in Florida that takes a holistic approach to teen or young adult wellbeing, considering the full range of lifestyle factors that may be leading them to addiction.

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