Studying the Potential Medical Benefits of Nicotine

We’ve all seen claims in various news articles stating nicotine is a highly addictive and dangerous drug. Yet, our pharmaceutical industry has taken this drug and offered it as a therapy option for smokers. Not only that, but the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that users of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) feel they need to continue using the product for longer in order to quit, it is safe to do so in most cases. I don’t know about you, but these seem like conflicting arguments to me. Is it possible with the rise of e-cigarettes, nicotine is an easy target for negativity? Are there things they don’t want us to know about nicotine?

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I started looking at nicotine use long term, in any way other than smoking a traditional cigarette, and was surprised at what I have found. Not only has the FDA authorized the use of the nicotine replacement therapy for longer than the original 12 week maximum, but there are several clinical trials and investigations surrounding nicotine as a medicine to treat several diseases and disorders. I think some of the these might surprise you, I know they surprised me.

Parkinson’s Disease – A 2002 study Nicotine Receptors; Relevance to Parkinson’s Diseasestated “These results, coupled with reports that nicotine treatment relieves some of the symptoms of this disorder, provides support for the contention that nicotine may be beneficial for acute symptomatic treatment.” Meaning 13 years ago they were considering nicotine as a strong possibility for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. In 2014 the clinical trial Nicotine Treatment of Impulsivity in Parkinson’s Diseasebegan.

Schizophrenia – Nicotine Receptor in Schizophrenialooked at the question “Why and how might nicotine benefit schizophrenia?” This is what they concluded:

 

  • Administration of nicotine produces a small but very consistent improvement in specific cognitive domains
  • Functions most affected by nicotine are reaction time; spatial working memory and sustained attention.
  • Nicotine releases the following:
  • Dopamine – Pleasure/Reward
  • Norepinephrine – Arousal
  • Acetylcholine – Arousal & Cognitive Enhancement
  • Glutamate – Learning & Memory Enhancement

 

    • Serotonin – Mood Modulation
    • Endorphin – Reduction of Anxiety
    • GABA – Reduction of Anxiety

The article goes on to state that they are looking at starting more trials to prove the efficacy of using nicotine as a therapy for Schizophrenia.

Alzheimers – Studies looking at the benefits of nicotine as a therapy for Alzheimers in 1999. The most recent study Role of Nicotine and Genistein in Brain Cell Activity Regulating Alzheimer’s Diseasefound “Nicotine and Genistein were able to regulate levels of the neurotransmitters…and are beneficial to possibly slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Meaning that there is at least one study that shows nicotine as a possibility for at least slowing the progression of this debilitating disease.

Tourette’s Syndrome – The study Possible Implication for Therapeutic Efficacy of Nicotine in Tourette’s Syndromethey determined that “The therapeutic efficacy of haloperidol can be augmented by nicotine.” So, nicotine itself is not a treatment option for Tourette’s, however it has been proven to enhance the current medication being used.

Ulcerative Colitis – This is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, similar to Crohn’s Disease. Once again Nicotine Treatment for Ulcerative Colitisfound “One the whole, the therapeutic effect of nicotine is consistent with the concept that, except for a few negative reports, it has a favorable influence on the course of active ulcerative colitis.” Which means, most of the people tested showed improvement when nicotine therapy was used.

Attention Deficit Disorder – Nicotine Effects on Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorderwas a study done in 1996 that concluded “Several lines of evidence suggest that nicotine may be useful in treating the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder…. because improvements occurred among nonsmokers, the nicotine effect appears not to be merely a relief of withdrawal symptoms.” That means that 19 years ago they were looking at nicotine as a possibility to assist with ADD, and they’re still looking at it.

Sleep Apnea – A Different Approach to the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep ApneaThis 1985 study found “It was concluded that nicotine reduces apneas during the early hours of sleep, this effect may be caused by its simulating action on upper airway muscles.” 30 years and they’re still researching it.

Depression – A more indepth study Nicotine Byproduct Shows Promise in Treating Depressionbreaks down the byproducts within nicotine that has effectively reduced depression and memory loss. This is a newer study and still being reviewed but shows a strong possibilities.

Weight Loss – Dr. Michael Roizen, MD in an article titled Weight Loss Strategies is quoted as saying “Studies have shown that nicotine – in the form of patches and gum, NOT in the form of cigarettes – when combined with a modest dose of caffeine (as in 2 cups of coffee) can help reduce weight of those who use it.”

So, there you have it. Years of study into the medicinal positives that nicotine may provide. Yet, we are constantly bombarded with the impression that nicotine is a deadly poison just waiting to kill us. We can speculate about the why of this, but it won’t change that this is exactly what is happening. At this point, all we can do is educate ourselves before allowing the latest scary story in the news to implant the seed of doubt. Question everything and look at the research surrounding the claims being made.

Once we fully understand the realities of the negative accusations in the media, we can not only feel more confident in our own vaping journey, but educate those around us as well.

How many of these conditions being studied for treatment with nicotine did you know about? Which one surprised you the most?

Written by: Michelle Harnden

Tim Mechling
 

Tim is Mt Baker Vapor's resident creative weirdo. He writes, composes music, draws, designs, produces podcasts, investigates, and blows the trumpet for the Common Man.

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