Smoking affects same 'feel good' brain chemical system as heroin

er they smoked the normal cigarettes. As the opioid activity in their amygdala and thalamus decreased, they reported feeling more relaxed, less alert and nervous, and less craving than before.

Since smoking stimulates the release of dopamine in some of the same areas of the brain, Zubieta and his colleagues speculate that the connection between the opioid system and the dopamine system may be an important one to study.

As the research goes forward, the team will be analyzing brain scans, self-reported ratings and genetic samples from more smokers and non-smokers, to give them a better picture of the interaction between nicotine, the opioid system, behavior and inherited traits.

But for the moment, simply having shown that nicotine has an impact on the crucial "feel good" system is reward enough.


Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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