Betel Nut (areca) and Smokeless Tobacco Use in Myanmar

Roger L. Papke, Indraneel Bhattacharyya, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Ingyin Moe, Sam Glatman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Betel nut (areca) is the world’s fourth most commonly used addictive substance. Arecoline, a muscarinic agonist in areca, is also a partial agonist for the addiction-related high-affinity brain nicotine receptors. In many countries, smokeless tobacco is commonly mixed with areca. Objective: We sought to evaluate the knowledge of self-harm, and addiction associated betel quid use in an unban population. Methods: We conducted a survey study of 200 betel quid users in Yangon, Myanmar, and a survey of betel quid vendors to determine the relative amounts of areca and tobacco in the available quids. Results: The data determined that a large majority of the survey subjects (84%) used tobacco with their areca. Users had a general awareness that betel chewing was “a bad habit” (85%) and 80% were aware of the cancer risks. Understanding areca addiction remains a challenge since, aside from the strong muscarinic activity of arecoline stimulating salivation, overt neurologic effects are difficult for even the users to identify. Fifty eight percent of the respondents indicated that chewing betel quid had effects like drinking coffee, and 55.5% indicated that it had effects like drinking alcohol. Data obtained from the quid vendors indicated that 75% added tobacco in equal amounts to areca. Conclusion: The concomitant use of nicotine and areca indicates that betel quid addiction includes a significant component of nicotine dependence. However, the additional activities of areca, including the muscarinic effects of arecoline, indicate that potential cessation therapies should optimally address other factors as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1385-1394
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Areca
  • addiction
  • cancer
  • cessation therapy
  • drug dependence
  • tobacco


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