Hope for smokers who can't quit...

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Jan 26, 2007.

  1. Spot in brain may control smoking urge

    By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical WriterThu Jan 25, 5:44 PM ET

    Damage to a silver dollar-sized spot deep in the brain seems to wipe out the urge to smoke, a surprising discovery that may shed important new light on addiction. The research was inspired by a stroke survivor who claimed he simply forgot his two-pack-a-day addiction _ no cravings, no nicotine patches, not even a conscious desire to quit.

    "The quitting is like a light switch that went off," said Dr. Antoine Bechara of the University of Southern California, who scanned the brains of 69 smokers and ex-smokers to pinpoint the region involved. "This is very striking."

    Clearly brain damage isn't a treatment option for people struggling to kick the habit.

    But the finding, reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science, does point scientists toward new ways to develop anti-smoking aids by targeting this little-known brain region called the insula. And it sparked excitement among addiction specialists who expect the insula to play a key role in other addictions, too.

    "It's a fantastic paper, it's a fantastic finding," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a longtime investigator of the brain's addiction pathways.

    "What this study shows unequivocally is the insula is a key structure in the brain for perceiving the urges to take the drug," urges that are "the backbone of the addiction," Volkow added.

    Why? The insula appears to be where the brain turns physical reactions into feelings, such as feeling anxious when your heart speeds up. When those reactions are caused by a particular substance, the insula may act like sort of a headquarters for cravings.

    Some 44 million Americans smoke, and the government says more than 400,000 a year die of smoking-related illnesses. Declines in smoking have slowed in recent years, making it unlikely that the nation will reach a public health goal of reducing the rate to 12 percent by 2010.

    Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known, and it's common for smokers to suffer repeated relapses when they try to quit.

    So imagine Bechara's surprise at hearing a patient he code-named "Nathan" note nonchalantly that "my body forgot the urge to smoke" right after his stroke.

    At the time, Bechara was at the University of Iowa studying the effects of certain types of brain damage after strokes or other injury. While Nathan was hospitalized, stroke specialists sent his information to that brain registry. He was 38, had smoked since 14, said he enjoyed it and had had no intention to quit. But his last puff was the night before his stroke. His surprised wife said he never even asked for a smoke while in the hospital.

    It's not unusual for a health scare to prompt an attempt at quitting. "That's the quitting that's not as interesting," Bechara said.

    Instead, Nathan experienced what Bechara calls a "disruption of smoking addiction," and he wanted to know why.

    Bechara and colleagues culled their brain-damage registry for 69 patients who had smoked regularly before their injuries. Nineteen, including Nathan, had damage to the insula. Thirteen of the insula-damaged patients had quit smoking, 12 of them super-easily: They quit within a day of the brain injury, and reported neither smoking nor even feeling the urge since then.

    Of the remaining 50 patients with damage in other brain regions, 19 quit smoking but only four met the broken-addiction criteria.

    If Bechara's findings are validated, they suggest that developing drugs that target the insula might help smokers quit. There are nicotine receptors in the insula, meaning it should be possible to create a nicotine-specific drug, Bechara said _ albeit years from now.

    More immediately, NIDA's Volkow wants to try a different experiment: Scientists can temporarily alter function of certain brain regions with pulses of magnetic energy, called "transcranial magnetic stimulation." She wants to see if it's possible to focus such magnetic pulses on the insula, and thus verify its role.

    Other neurologic functions are known to be involved with addiction, too, such as the brain's "reward" or pleasure pathways. The insula discovery doesn't contradict that work, but adds another layer to how addiction grips the brain, Bechara said.
  2. Didnt some chinese docter claim to have a good success rate treating heroin junkies by injecting something into the brain?
    Destroying the "nerve centre" involved?

    It makes sense.

    No, i havent quit smoking, surprise surprise, but theres hope there yet.

    How's your thread starting and trolling addiction going?:D
  3. :p

    Actually, Z is an alcoholic, currently in relapse. He revealed his alcoholism here on ET, in one of his former incarnations, before he was banned for improper conduct. He was going to a 12-step program, but apparently fell off the wagon when his Intellligent Design assertions were hammered into the ground.

  4. Hmm, actually Nic, ive seen some marked improvement in Z zzz, via using actual facts and occasionally reasonable discussion, on occasion.

    Very occasional, but its not like were hoping for a phoenix to rise out of the ashe's here, just reasonable progress.

    That being said, im still on the nicotine, i seem to have failed thus far to quit, so at least the subject matter isnt just alien gobbledy-gook, like so many of Z'z arguments.
  5. I too have noticed a change but I'm not as charitable as you about it :) :)

    I see it more as a forced change because he's trying to salvage a shred of credibility.

    Don't tell him I admitted this though.

    Re: the butts... I smoked for 20 years so I know where you're at. Good luck with that.

  6. No, he would never admit to trying to salvage credibility-he's a die-hard troll, he never had any to play with.

    I recall your well wishes from my previous quitting smoking thread, i dont know what to do, im desperate for a solution.

    But some Sci -PHarma conglomerate is SO unlikely to help, its preposterous.

    Its obvious, the solution lies in the mind, but i haven't quite got there, so far.
  7. If we spoke about this in the past, I likely told you that in my view, you are either trying to quit or you're not. As long as you are actively trying, that is all you can do.

    Just quit today, for the day. Eventually you will get so sick of trying and failing that you will string a few days together and say 'that is it, I've had enough'.

    The reason I know you will quit is that you want to, clearly. The ones that smoke all their lives don't particularly want to quit, even though they may say they want to, because it's the right thing to say. That's my belief, anyhow.

    It only took me 10 years of actively trying.

    Evil things, they truly are. (Engineered evil, that is).

    But you haven't asked for more preaching, so good luck.