(HealthDay News) – The addictiveness of menthol cigarettes, which are particularly popular with African-Americans and young people, may be due to their interaction with nicotinic acetylcholine (nACh) receptors in the brain, according to a review published online July 23 in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Noting the high rate of addiction and relapse for menthol cigarettes, Nadine Kabbani, PhD, from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., reviewed the current evidence on the role of menthol in nicotine addiction.
The author found that, while studies have shown that menthol affects the metabolism of nicotine, more recent studies have shown that menthol interacts with the nACh receptor. Menthol binds to nACh receptors on nerve cells, impairing their response to nicotine and promoting nicotine craving. Smokers of menthol cigarettes also have an increase in nACh receptors throughout the brain.
“The newly discovered effect of menthol on nACh receptors may begin to explain the unique addictive properties of menthol cigarettes,” Kabbani and colleagues conclude.