The idea of “gateway drugs” has been a subject of controversy and ridicule for decades. It’s an argument aimed often at people who use marijuana and are told that pot leads to the use of “harder” drugs. It has also been a handy weapon to aim at teenagers who smoke tobacco. A new study suggests that researchers have found the first chemical evidence that there may be something to the theory.  An epidemiologist and a neurobiologist at Columbia University led a team that found “epigenetic” changes in mice plied with nicotine. Those mice were far more likely to exhibit addictive behavior when given cocaine than were those not exposed to nicotine.

As is often the case with these sorts of study, the article does not make clear how much nicotine the mice were exposed to — were they massive doses or proportionate to a human smoker? Still, the article — from Nature.com — makes for interesting reading.

1 Comment

  1. JeffK on November 8, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I’m not sure where the ridicule might come from. I don’t know if any drug “leads” to another drug, but certainly there are commonalities among addictions that lead people to “cross-addict”, and become susceptible to becoming dependent (psychologically, chemically) on other stimuli. Recovery treatment rooms are full of people who have jumped from drug to drug, then to sex, then to gambling, then back to another drug, and they can’t all be wrong or just outliers. So it doesn’t surprise me that being addicted to nicotine might make you more easily addicted to another drug, though why cocaine would be special in this regard must have to do with the fine chemistry details that the article mentions (that I don’t understand ;-)).