Nicotine addiction

Nicotine addictionGenetic testing and vulnerability for nicotine addiction

Every tenth person or a half of regular smokers in the world dies of the consequences of this habit. Despite this, the share of smokers has been still increasing globally. People are vulnerable to the dependence to this bad habit in different ways. On the molecular level, the substance nicotine is responsible for dependence. Nicotine binds to certain receptors in the brains, which causes the feeling of pleasure and delight. Since all these receptors slightly differ among people, we are vulnerable to dependence in different ways.

If you are interested in your vulnerability for dependence, we can give you an answer, since it is hiding in your hereditary record – the genes.

More details about vulnerability for nicotine dependence

If we add to the aforementioned facts, that there is also a proven connection between smoking and heart stroke, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, various lung diseases, and cancer on the tongue, throat and lungs, we get more than enough reasons to quit smoking. Here is where a problem may appear: the World Health Organization estimates that less than 5% of those who try to quit without any help insist on their decision 1 year after their last cigarette. Reason is nicotine dependence on which is also influenced by genetic factors.

Nicotine dependence is a very complex phenomenon, which among other things depends also on the absorption of nicotine and its metabolism. People respond very differently to the same amount of nicotine, which depends on genetic factors. Such factors can help explain over 50% of vulnerability to nicotine dependence. Scientists have started searching for the genes which are hiding behind these 50 percent; as such knowledge could significantly contribute to solving the dependence problem.

The understanding of the biological mechanism of dependence significantly contributed to the search of the genes which could affect the nicotine dependence. Nicotine works on the family of acetylcholine receptors in the brains because it is structurally very similar to the chemical transmitter acetylcholine in the brains. Binding to this receptor triggers the opening of the ionic channel in the cell membrane and affects the relaxation of numerous neurotransmitters, which causes feelings of pleasure in people. Chronic exposure to nicotine can cause changes of neurotransmitter receptors that can become less sensitive or even inactive. The cell metabolism alone can be influenced. All these changes can make a smoker fall into abstinence crisis when quitting smoking.

One of first European smokers

One of the first smokers among Europeans was Rodrigo de Jerez, a member of Christopher Columbus’s crew. When he returned to his home town, the smoke from his mouth and nose frightened his neighbours so much that they reported him to the inquisitors. This brought him 7 years of imprisonment! It is interesting that people used to believe that tobacco smoking had healing effects. In 1571, a Spanish doctor called Nicolas Monardes stated that tobacco had healing powers for as many as 36 different health problems mentioned in his book.