Nicotine blocks an important hormone in women’s brains, say scientists

A study presented this weekend at the 35th annual conference of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology points out for the first time a possible reason why women often find it more difficult than men to quit smoking.

The article shows that a regular dose — equivalent to a single cigarette — lowers levels of estrogen (an important hormone) in women’s brains.

“We’re still not sure what the behavioral and cognitive outcomes are, it’s just that nicotine works in this area of ​​the brain. However, we noticed that the affected brain system is targeted by addictive drugs, such as nicotine”, explains in a statement the lead researcher of the study, Professor Erika Comasco, from Uppsala University, Sweden.

The brain area she mentioned is the thalamus, which is involved in behavioral and emotional responses.

It is known that women are more resistant to nicotine replacement in treatments to stop smoking, in addition to having more relapses than men when trying to quit smoking.

Females still “present greater vulnerability to the heredity of smoking and are at greater risk of developing primary diseases related to smoking, such as lung cancer and heart attacks”, adds the researcher.

“We now need to understand whether this action of nicotine on the hormonal system is involved in any of these reactions,” says Erika.

Wim van den Brink, professor emeritus of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam Academic Medical Center, says that “tobacco addiction is a complex disorder with many contributing factors.”

“This specific effect of nicotine on the thalamus (and estrogen production) is unlikely to explain all of the observed differences in development, treatment and outcomes between male and female smokers. This work is still a long way from a nicotine-induced decrease in estrogen production to a reduced risk of nicotine dependence and negative treatment effects and relapse in female smokers, but deserves further investigation.”

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