Hooked on the First Smoke
The pleasurable effects of nicotine have been studied for many years and are one of the reasons people find it so difficult to stop smoking. Some people try a cigarette and hate it on first puff — so they quickly give up smoking and never start again. For others, though, that first cigarette provides such a positive rush that they can't imagine ever not smoking again.
Clearly, different people experience nicotine differently. The reasons for this difference are the subject of a new study published by The University of Western Ontario, and researchers there are examining, specifically, how nicotine travels the brain pathways.
In those who enjoy smoking from the first puff, nicotine seems to cause a release of dopamine in a specific region of the brain. This rush of dopamine is perceived as rewarding and enjoyable by the brain, so the new smoker will likely continue smoking. Individuals who released more dopamine, or released much more dopamine at the time of their first cigarette were more likely to be addicted to cigarettes compared to those who didn't release that much dopamine at time of first puff.
This research suggests that people can, actually, get addicted to cigarettes on the first try; mainly because the dopamine is quickly processed and rushed down the mesolimbic pathway which is thought to control addiction to nicotine and many other drugs.
This is an important finding for smoking cessation treatments, as it suggests that rates of nicotine addiction can be stopped or slowed considerably if medication can be developed to stop the dopamine rush in those who experience it.