Anxiety is among the withdrawal symptoms of smoking. A group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts and the Scripps Institute found the reason why most people who try to quit smoking experience a sense of anxiety: the manager is a circuit of neurons. The news can be found in the magazine Nature.

The team found that a region of the brain is activated causing anxiety when one do not take more nicotine. Its neurons receive inputs from two brain regions: the first is traditionally associated with the effects of gratification that you feel when you take drugs. In the second area of the brain, however, neurons release glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. This work is coupled with another study of 2013 published in Current Biology, which instead identified the brain region in which the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as headaches, nausea and insomnia originate.

According to one researcher, it would be possible to mitigate the withdrawal anxiety by acting on these mechanisms. Consequentially, new targets for a possible new treatment of nicotine addiction could emerge from this research.

But what happens to those who try to quit smoking? 

“When you quit smoking, the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal occur, including anxiety, depression, increased appetite, agitation, and irritability. If smoking is better because nicotine contributes to the release of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine then these feelings subside, “said Dr Licia Syracuse, oncologist, coordinator of the Centre for Anti-Smoking at Humanitas. One can get relief from drugs: “The drugs available, such as patches, are nicotine substitutes and act on its own receptors. The most effective is varenicline, a partial agonist of nicotine: it pretends to hold off nicotine receptors. Therefore, one can manage withdrawal symptoms: 30 to 40% of people taking this drug can withstand up to 52 weeks not smoking. ”




To stop, you have to change your lifestyle

Beyond the physical dependence, there is a much more difficult obstacle: “It is the psychological addiction, linked to the physical one. People who smoke know that a cigarette or tobacco make them feel better and therefore tend to light a cigarette whenever they feel it is necessary: for example, one may feel alone or nervous or has an appetite and feels the need to smoke. The cigarette becomes an outlet. To stop this habit, one must change their lifestyle, avoiding situations associated with smoking” – concludes the specialist.