Cigarette smoking has become a common habit among young people and recent studies are showing that there is a link between schizophrenia and smoking. According to a team of researchers from King’s College London, smokers have an increased likelihood of developing the mental disorder and at a younger age.
The landmark study analysed a total of 61 independent studies all investigating the connection between nicotine and brain alterations leading to mental illness.
One explanation that scientists have come up with is that nicotine may become involved in the brain’s pleasure and reward system. Once interfering with the delicate biochemical reactions taking place here, nicotine may trigger mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
In the past, researchers believed that schizophrenia patients were more likely to smoke cigarettes as a form of self-medication. But that application seems to no longer apply.
“If the explanation was self-medication, when people started to develop schizophrenia they would be no more likely to smoke than anybody else, and then the smoking would develop in response to the symptoms,” Dr. James MacCabe explains.
The team of researchers examined a total of 287,717 patients, 14,555 of which were smokers. Their results were not surprising, but rather revealing. Of the 287,717 patients, 57% were already smokers at the moment of their first psychotic episode.
Furthermore, daily smokers presented double the risk of developing schizophrenia as compared to non-smokers and experienced their first episodes a year earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.
Dr. James MacCabe, one of the scientists involved in this study, explains that causality is extremely difficult to prove. However, the team’s data suggests that smoking, as a risk factor, should not be taken so lightly in the development of psychosis and should not only be regarded as a by-product of the patient’s inability of dealing with distress.
The team hopes that further research will reinforce the paper published in the Lancet Psychiatry by attempting to seek firmer evidence.
Photo credits: 1
Latest posts by Christina Langfold (see all)
- Scientists Discover the Second Fastest Spinning Pulsar In The Universe - Sep 9, 2017
- Coral Reef Damage Scares Florida Keys Researchers and Businesses - Jun 26, 2017
- Nike to Slash Global Workforce by 1,400 - Jun 16, 2017