In Mexico, 21.7 percent of the population smokes. By now, smoking has been implicated in every possible condition - lung cancer, obviously, but then crazy claims like that third-hand smoke could lead to epigenetic changes that make your grandchildren obese.
Still, it's not a good idea to draw any carcinogen into your lungs but some people who start have an easy time quitting while some just can't seem to shake it. Are they weak-willed or is addiction a physical knob that can be turned? Researchers from the Mexican Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER) believe they have developed a virtual platform that measures the level of addiction of smokers - unfortunately it relies on self-reported surveys. Calibrating anything statistically using surveys is difficult; it's easy to end up with high confidence for an answer that is completely wrong.
Because citizen science is the new buzzword, they label people filling out surveys as such. They don't seem to realize that citizen science actually involves science. Instead of science, if people identify as smokers they are asked to fill another survey aimed at identifying the degree of nicotine addiction according to Eryka Urdapilleta Herrera, head of the Program to Quit Smoking at the Research Department of INER.
Maria Ines Vargas Rojas, Head of Research at the Laboratory of Inflammation and Immunoregulation at INER, believes it shows the individual their level of addiction after sending the questionnaire responses, as well as estimating the degree of anxiety and depression that may lead to smoke and provides recommendations to control the problem.
Smoking in Mexico is implicated in up to 60,000 deaths per year.
"Smoking is a syndrome that causes inflammation throughout the body, not only in the breathing airways, which slowly and progressively produces a multisystem damage when done for prolonged periods, and favors the onset of various diseases; including hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and various types of cancer, especially in lungs," says Vargas Rojas, who adds that after the first inhalation of cigarette smoke, nicotine provokes a stimulus capable of generating these substance receptors, which are formed not only in the brain but throughout the body.
Thus, these cells will always be waiting for the addictive substance.
"For this reason, the subject no longer has physical control of its addiction, making it hard to quit smoking.
Also a difficult emotional component is added, which is hard to break,” says Urdapilleta Herrera adding that when nicotine enters the body it activates regions of the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure, that in the smoker act as a reward system to release certain neurotransmitters.
To make matters worse, cigarettes sold today can release more nicotine and include additives and chemicals that encourage addiction.
However, currently there are different treatments to combat nicotine addiction, both pharmacological and psychological. Some subjects are expressing protective or risk genes, not only to develop lung disease, but also for the own addiction to nicotine, which explains why there are patients more difficult to control, the researchers say.
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