E-Cigarettes – Gateway to Substance Abuse

Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images
Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images

Nicotine, in any form, can prime the brain for harder drugs

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that e-cigarettes serve as a “gateway drug” that may lead users to harder drugs such as cocaine.

Researchers Denise Kandel and Eric Kandel found that nicotine enhances the effects of cocaine by activating a reward-related gene and shutting off inhibition.

Epidemiological data shows that similar effects might be occurring in people. E-cigarettes don’t contain the tar and other byproducts of regular tobacco-burning cigarettes, they still rely on nicotine.  “E-cigarettes are basically nicotine-delivery devices,” Denise Kandel says.

Last month, the American Heart Association released a policy statement calling for stricter laws, more industry oversight, and a ban on marketing and selling e-cigs to adolescents. Toronto just banned e-cigs from the workplace. At least one study has found e-cigarettes do NOT help people quit smoking.

“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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