A study presented this weekend at the 35th Annual Conference of the European College of Psychopharmacology and Neuropsychology for the first time points to a possible reason why women find it more difficult to quit smoking than men.
The article explains that a regular dose – equivalent to one cigarette – lowers levels of estrogen (an important hormone) in women’s brains.
“We are still not sure about the behavioral and cognitive findings. Only that nicotine acts in this region of the brain, but we have observed that the affected brain system is the target of addictive drugs, such as nicotine,” explains lead researcher on the study, Professor Erika Komasco, of Uppsala. Sweden University.
The area of the brain you mentioned is the thalamus, which is involved in behavioral and emotional responses.
Women are known to be more resistant to NRT in smoking cessation treatments, as well as to have more relapses than men when trying to quit smoking.
The researcher adds that females are still “at greater risk of genetic factors for smoking and at greater risk of developing primary diseases related to smoking, such as lung cancer and heart attacks.”
“We now need to understand whether this effect of nicotine on the hormonal system is involved in any of these interactions,” says Erica.
Wim van den Brink, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Addiction at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, comments, “Tobacco addiction is a complex disorder with many contributing factors.”
“This specific effect of nicotine on the hypothalamus (and estrogen production) is unlikely to explain all of the observed differences in development, treatment, and outcomes between male and female smokers. There is still a long way to go from reducing nicotine-induced estrogen production to reducing nicotine dependence risks and effects. negative treatment and relapse in smokers, but this work deserves further research.”
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