• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Nicotine in e-cigs 'gateway' to drug addiction

E-CIGARETTES designed to help people quit smoking may act as a "gateway" to harmful illicit drugs, researchers have said.

Like conventional cigarettes, the devices are said to raise the risk of addiction to banned substances such as cannabis and cocaine.

Scientists pointed out that while eliminating many of the toxic compounds found in tobacco, e-cigarettes delivered highly addictive "pure nicotine".

In mice, nicotine was found to alter brain biochemistry and prime the animals to develop a need for cocaine.

Analysis of human data suggested it had the same effect in people, with cocaine addiction rates highest among former cigarette smokers. "Our findings provided a biological basis for the sequence of drug use observed in people," US neuroscientist Professor Eric Kandel, who conducted the research with his wife, Dr Denise Kandel, said.

"One drug alters the brain's circuitry in a way that enhances the effects of a subsequent drug."

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the married couple from Columbia University, New York, warned: "E-cigarettes have the same physiological effects on the brain and may pose the same risk of addiction to other drugs as regular cigarettes, especially in adolescence during a critical period of brain development.

"We don't yet know whether e-cigarettes will prove to be a gateway to the use of conventional cigarettes and illicit drugs, but that's certainly a possibility.

"Nicotine clearly acts as a gateway drug on the brain, and this effect is likely to occur whether the exposure comes from smoking cigarettes, passive tobacco smoke, or e-cigarettes."

Contextual targeting label: 
Drugs

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

259150