Want to quit smoking? You are vulnerable for a relapse for first 3 months | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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Want to quit smoking? You are vulnerable for a relapse for first 3 months

Smoking-related deficits in brain dopamine, a chemical released by neurons to send signals to other nerve cells, return to normal levels three months after quitting, according to a new study.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 31, 2016 15:22 IST
Smoking
The study suggests that the first three months after one stops smoking may be a particularly vulnerable time for relapse, in part, because of persisting dopamine deficits.(Shutterstock)

If you are a smoker but have decided to quit, here’s something you should take very seriously. Smoking-related deficits in brain dopamine, a chemical released by neurons to send signals to other nerve cells, return to normal levels three months after quitting, according to a new study.

The normalisation of dopamine systems suggested smoking-related deficits are a consequence of chronic smoking, rather than a risk factor, said the study published recently in the journal Biological Psychiatry. It also suggested that the first three months after one stops smoking may be a particularly vulnerable time for relapse.

Read: Do you think only smoking kills? Not exercising is as dangerous

These findings by a team of researchers from Germany raise the possibility that treatments might be developed that normalise the dopamine system in smokers. A major challenge in understanding substance-related disorders lies in uncovering why only some individuals become addicted, according to study lead author Lena Rademacher from the University of Lubeck.

To answer this question, Rademacher’s team examined dopamine function in chronic smokers before and after long-term cessation. The researchers used a brain imaging technique called positron emission tomography to measure an index of the capacity for dopamine production in 30 men who were nicotine-dependent smokers and 15 non-smokers.

Read: Men above 45, start exercising or low physical capacity will kill you

The initial scan revealed a 15-20% reduction in the capacity for dopamine production in smokers compared with non-smokers. The researchers expected this impairment to persist even after quitting, which would suggest it could be a marker of vulnerability for nicotine addiction. “Surprisingly, the alterations in dopamine synthesis capacity normalised through abstinence,” Rademacher said.

Watch: A simple way to break a bad habit

The study suggests that the first three months after one stops smoking may be a particularly vulnerable time for relapse, in part, because of persisting dopamine deficits. This observation raises the possibility that one might target these deficits with new treatments.