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Commonly Used Diabetes Drug (Pioglitazone) Relieves Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal; May Provide New Strategy in Efforts to Help Individuals Stop Smoking

A drug commonly used to treat Type II diabetes abolishes the characteristic signs of nicotine withdrawal in rats and mice, according to new research published on November 4, 2019 in the Journal of Neuroscience. The finding may offer an important new strategy in the battle to end smoking. The article is titled “Activation of PPARγ attenuates the expression of physical and affective nicotine withdrawal symptoms through mechanisms involving amygdala and hippocampusneurotransmission.” Smokers trying to quit face potent side effects from nicotine withdrawal, including cravings, increased appetite, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Even though they may want to quit, many smokers continue to smoke simply because the withdrawal experience is so unpleasant. The diabetes drug, pioglitazone, targets a specific form of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors in the nucleus. This receptor, PPARγ, is found in areas of the brain involved in drug addiction. In their current work, Esi Domi(photo), PhD, post-doc at the Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience-Linköping University (Sweden), and colleagues have demonstrated that direct injections of pioglitazone into the hippocampi of male mice reduced the signs of physical nicotine withdrawal, including paw tremors, chattering, and head shakes. Injecting pioglitazone into the amygdala of male mice ameliorated signs of anxiety associated with nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine abusers face a 30% higher risk of developing Type II diabetes. The researchers suggest pioglitazone may help diabetic smokers quit by lessening the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms while reducing insulin resistance.

[Press release] [Journal of Neuroscience abstract]