Kicking the cigarette habit is difficult enough, but resisting the urge to light up in situations previously associated with smoking can be a quitter’s downfall. But help may be at hand. A new inhibitor developed by Fang Liu and colleagues at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto helped ex-smoker rats resist that urge.
Liu and colleagues found that long-term nicotine exposure caused two neurotransmitter receptors to interact in the brain, and their inhibitor prevented this interaction. In rats trained to self-administer nicotine, the inhibitor had no effect on their propensity to indulge. But in “ex-smoker” rats (those weaned off nicotine), the inhibitor decreased the number of relapses after exposure to environmental cues previously associated with a nicotine fix.
If the inhibitor works the same way in humans, it may provide a powerful new way to reduce relapses in people who have quit smoking or chewing tobacco.
Li, S., et al. 2012. J. Exp. Med. doi: 10.1084/jem.20121270
Rockefeller University Press