A recent study conducted by researchers from King’s College London says that smoking might lead to schizophrenia. Although doctors claim that a certain dose of nicotine can relieve stress researchers say that they are non-causal factors. The study published in Lancet Psychiatry indicates that smoking could be a causal factor in itself.
Researchers from King’s College London’s Department of Psychosis Studies have analyzed 61 studies starting from 1980. The studies concentrated on the link between psychosis and smoking. The researchers analyzed data about 15.000 smokers and 273.000 people who were not smokers. Some of the people involved in the study were also reported to suffer from psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia. The findings indicate that those who reported schizophrenia for the first time were three times more likely to smoke.
Overall 57 percent of the participants who sought mental health services for the first instances of psychosis were also smokers. These participants had threefold chances of being tobacco consumers compared to patients who had no mental illness.
The findings of the study also showed that those who smoke on a daily basis will develop mental illness approximately a year earlier than those participants who did not smoke.
James MacCabe from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (King’s College London) said:
“While it is always hard to determine the direction of causality, our findings indicate that smoking should be taken seriously as a possible risk factor for developing psychosis, and not dismissed simply as a consequence of the illness.”
There is a theory according to which people suffering from psychosis are often smokers because they use tobacco as a way to seek relief from turmoil or as self-medication against the side effects of the treatments used for psychosis. If this were true the smoking rates should have gone up only after the patients were diagnosed, but this was not observed. As a consequence the researchers drew the conclusion that smoking is not in fact the result of self-medicating, but a participant factor in developing schizophrenia.
The researchers speculate that the results could be explained by the way in which the brain’s chemical, dopamine, is affected. Dopamine is responsible for the pleasure centers of the brain. However the scientists claim that the research is not conclusive enough to decide for sure that smoking causes schizophrenia.
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