The Myths About e-Cigarettees

…how it primes the brain for cocaine use


The hazards smokers and non-smokers (in case of second-hand smoking) are prone to have become over-advertised and legendary. Still many would rather drop few wads of notes on purchasing cigarettes than easily kick the habit. While the war against tar and nicotine consumption have not significantly been won, the invention of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is unlikely to erase the dangers from either of those substances – nicotine. While e-cigarettes are vapourised and lacking tar, it is found to compose of nicotine. The product, which was first produced in China in 2007, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, serves as a “gateaway drug.”  This suggests that e-cigarrette users are more likely to use, and become addicted to, other drugs like cocaine. The latest findings spurred by a research by Denise Kandel and Eric Kandel, who have been studying nicotine consumption for years. The couple in their initial work found that nicotine increases the effects of


For a product so young, e-cigarettes are already generating volumes of research. And the latest, appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that e-cigarettes serve as a “gateway drug”— meaning they could make users more likely to use, and become addicted to, other drugs like cocaine.

The wife-husband research team Denise Kandel and Eric Kandel has been studying nicotine for years, and in their earlier work they found that nicotine enhanced the effects of cocaine by activating a reward-related gene and shutting off inhibition. The research posited that mice fed with nicotine before being given cocaine behave differently – the run cocaine by activating a reward-related gene and shutting off inhibition — they ran around more and spent more time in the space where they were fed, likely driven by a need to satisfy their craving for the drug.

Denise’s epidemiological data shows that similar effects might be occurring in people; most who start taking cocaine were smoking at the time, and her studies showed that nicotine can prime users to turn to harder drugs to keep the reward system satisfied. While e-cigarettes don’t contain the tar and other byproducts of regular tobacco-burning cigarettes, they still rely on nicotine, and the Kandels believe they would lead to similar use of other drugs. “E-cigarettes are basically nicotine-delivery devices,” she says, and Eric agrees. “This is a powerful facilitator for addiction to cocaine and perhaps other drugs as well,” he says. “If people knew that this is in fact the danger … they’d be much less enthusiastic about using nicotine.”

The Kandels argue that it’s time to consider nicotine’s effect not just on the lungs but on the brain as well. “The fact that this is a significant influence on encouraging or facilitating the use of other drugs is never discussed, and it’s just a major omission,” Eric says.

“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-cigs, “Now I think we’re on the verge of destroying all of the progress that we’ve [made].”

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