For a product so young, e-cigarettes are already generating volumes of research. And the latest, appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that e-cigarettes serve as a “gateway drug” — meaning they could make users more likely to use, and become addicted to, other drugs like cocaine.
The wife-husband research team Denise Kandel and Eric Kandel has been studying nicotine for years, and in their earlier work they found that nicotine dramatically enhanced the effects of cocaine by activating a reward-related gene and shutting off inhibition. When mice had nicotine before cocaine, they behaved differently too — they ran around more and spent more time in the space where they were fed, likely driven by a need to satisfy their craving for the drug.
Denise’s epidemiological data shows that similar effects might be occurring in people; most who start taking cocaine were smoking at the time, and…
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