Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Quitting Smoking? Your Nicotine receptors Take Over A Month To Normalize

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms typically peak in the first week of abstinence and return to normal at around 3-4 weeks. It has long been known that certain nicotinic receptors (particularly the beta-2 subtype) are closely involved in nicotine addiction, and that smokers have a larger number of nicotine receptors in their brains than non-smokers. When the smoker quits, this large number of vacant, unstimulated receptors is believed to be involved in the resulting craving and distressing withdrawal (irritability, restlessness, depression, anxiety, poor concentration etc).

Earlier this year, a study published by Drs Kelly Cosgrove, Julie Staley and colleagues at Yale University, provided evidence on the time course of normalization of these receptors after quitting smoking.

In the study, 19 heavy smokers and 20 non-smokers underwent brain scans using single photon emission topography (SPECT) which can measure the density of beta-2 nicotine receptors. The smokers were also scanned at various time-points after quitting smoking. During the first 4 weeks after quitting, the ex-smokers had 20-30% more nicotine receptors, but the number had normalized to that of never-smokers by weeks 6-12. The time-course of these changes is similar (though not identical) to that consistently found for studies of nicotine withdrawal symptom severity, and may reflect a readjustment process in the brain.

Studies like this one are technically difficult and expensive to do, as brain-scanning itself is an expensive business, and some of the methods for assessing specific nicotine receptor numbers have only recently been developed. But the evidence from this and similar studies supports the idea that nicotine withdrawal is related to the number of vacant nicotine receptors, and that it takes just over a month after quitting for these to normalize.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that nicotine addiction is all over six weeks after the last cigarette. It just means that the acute nicotine withdrawal phase is largely gone within that time frame.

A nice summary of the study with a picture of the brain scans can be found at:

http://www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol22N4/Abstinent.html

Reference
Cosgrove KP, Batis J, Bois F, Maciejewski PK, Esterlis I, Kloczynski T, Stiklus S, Krishnan-Sarin S, O’Malley S, Perry E, Tamagnan G, Seibyl JP, Staley JK. Beta-2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor availability during cute and prolonged abstinence from tobacco smoking. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 Jun;66(6):666-76

This post, Quitting Smoking? Your Nicotine receptors Take Over A Month To Normalize, was originally published on Healthine.com by Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D..


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »