Why cigarette withdrawal is depressing

A new addiction study has just determined that something, no one is exactly sure what, in tobacco causes the human brain to release mono-amine oxidase A (MAO-A) during cigarette withdrawal. This finding was just published in Archives of General Psychiatry.  It partially explains why heavy smokers are at high risk for clinical depression. MAO-A is all about sadness because it eats up serotonin like candy.

Using advanced brain imaging methods Dr. Jeffrey Meyer determined that within eight hours of quitting MAO-A levels rose 25 per cent. “Understanding sadness during cigarette withdrawal is important because this sad mood makes it hard for people to quit, especially in the first few days. Also, heavy cigarette smoking is strongly associated with clinical depression,” said Dr. Meyer, who holds a Canada Research Chair in the Neurochemistry of Major Depression. “This is the first time MAO-A, a brain protein known to be elevated in clinical depression has been studied during cigarette withdrawal.” Though MAO-A “eats up” serotonin there is another substance in cigarette smoke that is not fully understood. It is called harman. The act of smoking, causes harman to attache to MAO-A. Harman? Is this a pun? Harman causes harm!

People considering quitting tobacco might also consider taking a bottle of research grade St. John’s wort during the three months of withdrawal. St. John’s wort contains Zanthrones in its stems that are high in MAO-A inhibitors.