Duke nicotine research conference examines tobacco addiction

October 12, 2013 / The Herald Sun / Durham, NC — Studies for decades have linked the cravings of cigarette smokers to nicotine.

But researchers are beginning to pick apart the more than 4,000 other substances found in tobacco to find other clues regarding addiction.

The Duke Nicotine Research Conference, in its 19th year, brought together about 80 researchers from as far as California and even Sweden Thursday at the Durham Convention Center to examine the role of non-nicotine tobacco constituents in addiction and treatment.

Jed E. Rose, director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation, which also has offices in Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, focuses on treatment development and the effects of nicotine and alcohol on the brain. He’s co-inventor of the nicotine skin patch and is now working with Philip Morris International, an international tobacco and cigarette company, to create a “nicotine inhaler” to help reduce the harm of smoking.

He said researchers are just starting to study the other substances in tobacco through experiments with animal and human models. Duke recently conducted an experiment with rats, in which the animals would press a lever or press their nose to a particular spot to receive a mix of tobacco or nicotine. The rats preferred the tobacco mixture.

“What else is there about tobacco that makes it more addictive than nicotine in isolation?” Rose asked. How can someone be “so addicted to something that doesn’t get them high?”

He also cited a study from a few years ago that made people choose between smoking cigarettes without nicotine and receiving nicotine through an IV. They preferred the act of smoking, Rose said, the “full sensory experience.”