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Quitting smoking harder for women smokers

New Delhi, Thu, 05 Apr 2012 NI Wire
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A recent study has revealed that, women smokers find it more difficult to quit smoking in comparison to men as the brains respond to nicotine is different in case of women.

While a person smokes the number of nicotine receptors in the brain is thought to increase in number that binds to the nicotine and increases the urge to smoke.

The study has revealed that the male smokers have greater number of nicotine receptors in brain compared to male non-smokers. But the surprise was the, the number of nicotine receptors in case of female smokers were approximately same as the as non-smokers.

"When you look at it by gender, you see this big difference," Fox News quoted study researcher Kelly Cosgrove, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, as saying.

The findings are important because the main treatments method involved quitting smoking nicotine-replacement therapies, like nicotine patches and gums.

Moreover, the study suggested that, for women smoker’s treatment therapies including behavioral therapies, such as exercise or relaxation techniques, and non-nicotine containing medications are more effective than the treatments including nicotine, Cosgrove said.

Things not related to smoking such as, such as the smell and act of holding a cigarette, can play an important role in quitting the habit of smoking among women smokers in comparison to men, Cosgrove said.

During the entire study, Cosgrove and colleagues scanned the brains of 52 men and 58 women, of which half in each group were smokers. The researchers examined nicotine receptors in the brain in both the groups with the help of a radioactive marker that binds to an important group of receptors specifically that are basically responsible for stimulating the physical dependence of the body to nicotine, Cosgrove said.

Smokers in the study were kept away from smoking for a week in order to make their nicotine receptors would be free to bind to the marker that was used for imaging during the study.

The result of the examination showed that male smokers had approx. 16 percent more nicotine receptors in an area of their brain called the striatum, 17 percent more in the cerebellum area, and 13 to 17 percent more in the cortical region, or outside layer, of the brain in comparison to the male non-smokers. In contrast to that, Female smokers had same numbers of nicotine receptors in these brain regions.

More attention should be given to the non-nicotine related smoking therapies, agreed Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in N.Y.

"You can replace all the nicotine you want, and people might still want to smoke," Horovitz said.

Smoking plays the role of big stress reliever for some people and since deep breathing is a part of smoking so the breathing exercises can help the smokers a lot as they mimic puffing a cigarette, Horovitz said.

Though, the reason for the sex difference observed during the study is still unknown, but it may have link with the levels of the hormone progesterone.

Levels of hormone progesterone keep on fluctuating in females depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle, and becomes much high after ovulation. The study found higher levels of progesterone were related to a lower number of available nicotine receptors, the researchers said, suggesting the progesterone may block these receptors indirectly.

The details of the study have been published in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

-With inputs from ANI

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