Is this why smokers find it so hard to quit? Belief in nicotine’s powers can increase addiction

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
  • Scientists gave real and placebo cigarettes to nicotine-addicted smokers
  • MRI images looked at the area of the brain associated with cravings
  • To gain more satisfaction, smokers had to not only smoke a cigarette with nicotine but also believe they were smoking nicotine

Smokers get a rush of dopamine when nicotine from a cigarette enters their body.

It's this chemical reaction that means so many people are addicted to smoking.

But scientists believe there is something else at play - a smoker's belief in the chemical reaction can also change their cravings.

In a study, researchers have discovered that if smokers don’t think they are getting nicotine, the rush of dopamine never arrives.

The research comes from the Centre for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Contrary to their expectations, researchers found that in order to satisfy nicotine cravings, smokers had to not only smoke a cigarette with nicotine but also believe that they were smoking nicotine.

Dr Xiaosi Gu, who led the study, said: 'These results suggest that for drugs to have an effect on a person, he or she needs to believe the drug is present.'

The study involved 24 chronic nicotine-addicted smokers.

Over four visits, participants were twice given a nicotine-containing cigarette, and twice a placebo.

With each type of cigarette, they were once told the accurate type they had, and once told the opposite.

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