Study finds addictive habits reinforced by nicotine use

The original work for the study was brought about through the professors' interest in the addictive qualities of Cigarettes. Cigarettes affect the lives of ...

PITTSBURGH - Nicotine is not only addictive itself, according to a recent University of Pittsburgh research study, but it also enhances the pleasure a smoker receives from his or her environment. The 15-year study concluded that smokers derive enhanced pleasure from their surroundings when they smoke.

The study, conducted by principal researchers Anthony Caggiula, chair of the psychology department, Eric Donny, assistant professor of psychology, and Alan Sved, chair of the neuroscience department, concluded that nicotine increased interest in stimuli in test subjects.

According to Caggiula, the research was conducted using rats, which were taught to administer nicotine to themselves by pushing on a bar. The rats also had access to light and sound stimuli.

The research concluded that the rats developed an increased interest in the stimuli after administering nicotine to themselves, as opposed to interacting with the stimuli without nicotine in their systems.

The original work for the study was brought about through the professors' interest in the addictive qualities of Cigarettes. Cigarettes affect the lives of millions of americans, Caggiula said. "We were interested in trying to understand how nicotine works."

The first cigarette for many smokers is not pleasurable, and often induces coughing or gagging, Caggiula noted. However, the conclusion of the study is that the nicotine in Cigarettes has what is known as a reinforcement-enhancing effect. Put simply, it makes the act of smoking, itself, addictive.

Donny conducted a follow-up study based on the larger conclusions of the research project. He gave 30 adult smokers Cigarettes with little or no nicotine, according to a press release. The participants' interest in the Cigarettes maintained for a week or More, even without the presence of nicotine. According to the press release, Donny concluded that the smokers derived pleasure from the act of smoking itself, as opposed to the nicotine.

"There is something that changes the aversive act into something that turns pleasurable, this is what we believe nicotine does," said Caggiula.

According to Caggiula, similar research has been performed at Yale University that supports the Pitt study findings.


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