Smoking is a tough habit to break, but new research suggests that one exotic Asian nut may help make the feat a bit more bearable. According to the research, a compound found inside of the areca nut may help smokers kick the habit far more effectively than currently available smoking cessation medications.
The study, presented at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society suggests that a molecule found inside the areca nut, called arecoline, may be effective at helping smokers break their habit. The molecule stimulates the same receptors in the brain responsible for nicotine addiction, but leave other receptors alone. Because of this, the drug may be able to treat nicotine addiction without having other side effects, unlike many of the currently available smoking cessation drugs on the market, such as varenicline.
"The molecules that we're developing are more specific —they do not target those other receptors at all, so our compounds should be safer," lead study researcher Roger L. Papke explained in a recent press release on ScienceDaily.
Current smoking cessation drugs work by blocking the pleasurable effect of smoking in the brain, thereby decreasing your desire to have a cigarette. However, along with not being very effective, many current drugs available to help smokers quit have serious side effects. For example, Drugs.com reported that varenicline, also known as Chantix, one of the most popular smoking cessation drugs on the market, can cause suicidal thoughts, sleepwalking, and even heart problems. It is also associated with severe moods and depression, all extremely undesirable side effects.
For the study, the team looked at the chemical structure of molecules inside the areca nut and attempted to synthesize them in a lab. According to a recent press release on the study, the next step for the team is to receive funding to be able to test these synthesized molecules on animals in potential drug trials.