Smoking Ups Flow of 'Feel Good' Brain Chemicals

Finding could lead to better understanding of how habit affects people

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Smoking causes major changes in the flow of "feel good" chemicals between brain cells, says a University of Michigan study.

This is the first time researchers have demonstrated that smoking increases levels of these brain chemicals -- called endogenous opioids -- which create a sense of reward, heighten positive emotions and help quell pain. These brain chemicals are also affected by morphine and heroin.

The results were presented Oct. 26 at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego.

This small pilot study, which included a group of young male pack-a-day smokers and a group of nonsmokers, found that smoking had a surprisingly large impact on levels of endogenous opioids. Brain scans were used to detect smoking-related changes in opioid levels.

The results indicate a promising area of future research that may help scientists better understand the ways that smoking affects people and why it can be so hard for smokers to kick the habit.

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has information about how nicotine affects the brain.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, Oct. 26, 2004
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