Smoking may alleviate some symptoms of schizophrenia, according to a new study out of Victoria University.Study author Uta Waterhouse said this raises questions that current legislation, which prohibits smoking in places like hospitals and other healthcare facilities, may be having adverse affects on schizophrenic patients.Smoking rate among people with this disorder sit between 75 and 90 per cent, compared to about 20 percent of the general population, and 50 per cent among individuals with other mental disorders.
Victoria University PHD graduate Uta Waterhouse says her research found nicotine improved the cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia.Waterhouse, who will graduate from Victoria University next week with a PhD in Psychology, said she wanted to find out what was driving this unusually high rate.”In pre-clinical studies, I found that nicotine improved the cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia,” she said.The Ministry of Health says it will need time to review the new study.
“Newton-Howes said patients with schizophrenia on average died 17 years before their mentally healthy counterparts, and this was often as a result of cardiovascular diseases associated with smoking.”This research has very massive public health implications. The whole thing makes me incredibly worried about the harmful effects this kind of research can do if the cautions around it aren’t really clearly laid out.”The study focused on reactions in animals that showed schizophrenic and non-schizophrenic tendencies, using intravenous delivery of nicotine and saline solution to study the different effects.Waterhouse’s findings did not support the theory that both schizophrenia and nicotine addiction share common neurobiological pathways.”It clearly showed that nicotine has a positive effect on the problematic changes to brain function that come with schizophrenia,”
“This explains why so many patients with schizophrenia are smokers: it’s a way of self-medicating.Waterhouse said this was particularly important, because there was currently no pharmacological treatment for the cognitive deficits – the negative changes in brain function – that are a symptom of schizophrenia.”This might be an area that warrants further exploration by pharmaceutical companies, which could develop medications to suit.”The potential of nicotine alternatives like patches, gum and vaping to help schizophrenic patients could be a topic for future studies, Waterhouse said.