While the oft misunderstood drug is gaining acceptance as essentially harmless alone, a new study backs up its utility with mood disorders.
In recent months more and more support for removing nicotine from cigarettes has grown. They argue by removing the well known addictive substance from cigarettes, both new and old smokers will find it easier to quit. While this may actually be the case, it completely misses the larger issue while simultaneously putting the blame on nicotine. The extensive list of chemicals and carcinogens in cigarette smoke are what really ought to be reduced and regulated. If policy makers really care about improving public health and not just the public’s opinion of them, the emphasis should be on the most harmful substances, not simply the ones with the most name recognition. The truth is that nicotine by itself is a relatively innocuous, albeit addictive, drug. In fact, over the years there have been plenty of studies that suggest nicotine actually has several medicinal uses, particularly for neurological disorders.
A study published in the Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews suggests that nicotine could work as an effective antidepressant. The research conducted by Jason Gandelman, Paul Newhouse, and Warren Taylor set out to find if nicotine could fill the desperately needed niche of an effective antidepressant for individuals with late-life depression. According to the researchers, depression later in life is compounded with the presence of the normal aging decline, and can therefore be quite resistant to traditional medications. When antidepressants were used in conjunction with stimulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, they were very successful in treating late-life depression. They concluded that while effective, much more research is needed under different circumstances to fully understand the true potential of nicotine. This is just the newest of many researched potential uses of nicotine.
Dr. Paul Newhouse is the director of the Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine, and co-author of the late-life depression study. He’s published many articles on the effects of nicotine, such as a 2008 study that showed nicotine patches could be effective in treating ADHD and a 2012 study that indicated improvement in attention, memory, and mental processing over a six month trial. It’s not just Dr. Newhouse finding these kind of results though.
Research going back as far as 1966 shows the potential neurological benefit of nicotine. Harold Kahn was an epidemiologist at the National Institute of Health when he discovered only one instance in which smokers were less likely to develop a debilitating disease than nonsmokers, Parkinson’s Disease. It wasn’t until 1979 though, that a UCLA researcher, Marie-Françoise Chesselet, was able to prove that it was actually the nicotine in cigarettes causing this surprising health benefit. Other research has even shown that nicotine could possibly be a treatment for schizophrenia. Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia often have extreme difficulty getting overwhelmed by stimuli. Nicotine was shown to boost their ability to focus on one thing, as well as recall recent events.
In this case the issue for nicotine and vaping are exactly the same. Both suffer from bad reputations due to their connection with cigarettes and both have criminally under researched potential benefits. But one thing they also have in common is the community of citizens who deeply care about spreading the truth, not simply popular opinion. While the rest of the public has yet to come around to nicotine and vaping as some of the best tools we have to combat smoking, researchers are beginning to reach a consensus. This will only continue to improve the legitimacy of vaping nicotine as a serious smoking cessation tool. But it’s still on us to do what we can to spread the word to our friends and neighbors who may still be uninformed about the countless benefits to vaping over smoking.
Do you think that nicotine is relatively harmless? Have you noticed any cognitive health improvements due to vaping? What should researchers be focused on in regards to nicotine? Let us know what you think in the comments.