It may seem like common sense that cocaine users are more likely to be smokers than other groups. Drug users tend to use drugs, and what better way to mellow out a crazy cocaine high than a few (packs of) cigarettes? Well, a new study conducted by Denise and Eric Kandel of Columbia University shows that smoking may lead to cocaine: Nicotine actually causes epigenetic changes that boost a smokers response to cocaine. In other words, if you are or were a smoker, cocaine is going to hit you a lot harder.
The idea of gateway drugs has been around for what seems like forever. I'm sure all my fellow D.A.R.E. kids remember learning that smoking and drinking are just the first step to crack, heroin, baggy black hoodies, getting mugged by drug dealers and all that jazz. For a long time though, a lot of the evidence surrounding that idea has been psychological and circumstantial. Kids who smoke are more likely to try something else because they already jumped off the straight-edge wagon, kids who are buying pot from their dealer are going to get offered some ecstasy at some point, etc. This study, however, roots the issue of gateway drugs in actual, physical responses. People who use nicotine are actually rewired to feel that line of coke more than people who don't.