Cigarette smoking represents an enormous, global public health threat. Nearly five million premature deaths during a single year are attributable to smoking. Despite the resounding message of risks associated with smoking and numerous public health initiatives, cigarette smoking remains the most common preventable cause of disease in the United States. Fortunately, even in an adult smoker, smoking cessation can reverse many of the potential harmful effects. The symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal represent the major obstacle to smoking cessation. This minireview examines the roles of various nicotinic receptors in the mechanisms of nicotine dependence, discusses the potential role of the habenula-interpeduncular nucleus axis in nicotine withdrawal, and highlights nicotinic receptors containing the beta4 subunit as a potential pharmacological target for smoking cessation strategies.
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