"All in the Mind" Looks at Nicotine and the Brain

The May 10th episode of All in the Mind is an excellent discussion of the latest research about nicotine addiction.  It includes a very balanced look at the controversy over the new smoking cessation drug, varenicline, which is sold in the US as Chantix.  Nicotine has a unique effect on certain neurotransmitter receptors in the brain.  Varenicline works as a partial agonist, which means it mimics some of the effects of nicotine, but it also blocks the receptor so that when a person smokes the experience is not rewarding.  However, since the receptors involved also have other functions (they aren't there to respond to the nicotine in cigarettes just like the opiate receptors are not there to respond to man-made narcotics), using the drug can lead to a wide variety of side effects. Balancing the risks and benefits of the drug is one of the topics discussed in the podcast.

I have to admit that addiction is a subject in which I have little personal interest, but obviously addiction to smoking effects millions of people. I highly recommend this podcast to everyone who smokes or loves some who does.

Be sure to go to the site for both the show's transcript and links to everyone featured on the show.