A few days ago on the Dean Edell radio show, I’m told, Dean Edell told his listeners that nicotine patches don’t cause any addiction problems; people just don’t get addicted to them. To anyone who has read The Shangri-La Diet this will sound eerily familiar: Dr. William Jacobs, a professor of psychiatry and addiction researcher at the University of Florida, told me that no one gets addicted to unflavored sugar water, although lots of people get addicted to Coke, Pepsi, and other forms of flavored sugar water.

These examples suggest is that it isn’t the drug (sugar, nicotine) that causes addiction, it’s the signal of the drug — the conditioned stimulus (CS), to use animal-learning jargon. No signal, no addiction. In the case of sugar water, it’s very clear: Digestion of calories provides little or no pleasure. Ingestion of sweet-tasting things provides just a little pleasure. Ingestion of a flavor that has been paired with calories many times, such as the flavor of Coke, provides a lot of pleasure. The pattern with nicotine may be similar: Nicotine itself provides little or no pleasure. It is learned signals of nicotine — events repeated followed by nicotine — that can be very pleasant.

The practical application is that you may not need nicotine patches to quit smoking. It may be enough to hold your nose while you smoke. (The nose-clipping that SLD forum readers are familiar with.) When you smoke, the smell may become the CS. With this way of smoking you could have cigarettes whenever you wanted. You’d just come to want them less and less.

Likewise, it may be possible to get rid of an addiction to coffee by holding your nose while you drink it.

Thanks to Carl Willat.