Came across this while updating my blog...
It seems that the brain is very sensitive to at least some introduced chemicals....so much so that the brains structure and response mechanisms will alter...
The entire NIH Research Matters summary is at
November 21, 2011
Why Nicotine is a Gateway Drug
A new study in mice shows how tobacco products could act as gateway drugs, opening the door to use of illicit drugs. Nicotine, the researchers found, makes the brain more susceptible to cocaine addiction. The finding suggests that lowering smoking rates in young people might help reduce cocaine abuse.
Scientists have long recognized that cigarettes and alcohol raise the risk for later use of illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine. In a recent national survey, over 90% of adult cocaine users between the ages of 18 and 34 had smoked cigarettes before they began using cocaine. Researchers suspected that nicotine exposure might increase vulnerability to cocaine. However, no one had identified a biological mechanism. A team of scientists, led by Dr. Eric Kandel at Columbia University and supported by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), set out to investigate.
In Science Translational Medicine on November 2, 2011, the scientists reported that mice given nicotine in their drinking water for 7 days showed increased activity in response to cocaine. The animals also had changes in a brain signaling process called long-term potentiation.