Most of the populations is already aware of how difficult it is to quit smoking. What usually motivates people to quit are the various health risks associated with smoking, including lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, and many others. Now with the results of a new study, we can add schizophrenia to the list.
Results from a study done by The Lancet Psychiatry has found a link between schizophrenia and smoking based on the effects that nicotine has on the brain. In the past, smoking and schizophrenia were linked because researchers believed that schizophrenics were using smoking as a form of self medication. In many cases the stressful and confusing symptoms of the disorder were eased by a regular smoking habit. Researchers from the most recent study wanted to explore the link even further to determine if smoking actually increased the chances of developing schizophrenia.
By looking at the results of numerous studies done in the past and analyzing their connections between smoking and schizophrenia, the researchers were able to determine that among people who smoked daily, the chances of developing schizophrenia was two times higher than among nonsmokers. Daily smokers also tended to develop psychosis earlier than nonsmokers.
The researchers believe that the link between the two has a lot to do with the effects of nicotine on the brain’s production of dopamine. It turns out that repeated exposure to nicotine causes the brain to produce larger amounts of dopamine. These excess amounts of dopamine in the brain are what causes many psychotic illnesses to develop.
The effect of smoking on the brain is a complicated matter that researchers say needs further examination. For example, smoking has been linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by decreased levels of dopamine in the brain. It remains to be seen if smoking is definitely linked to an increased risk of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. Hopefully future studies will shed more light on the subject.
In the meantime, quitting is never a bad idea. In addition to raising the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, and emphysema, smoking has also been linked to depression and anxiety. The link between depression and smoking seems to be even more pronounced among teenage and young adult smokers. Young smokers may be using their habit as a way to self medicate, and eventually creating a self perpetuating cycle that is very difficult to break.
Nicotine alters the neurochemical pathways in the brains of smokers, and with young smokers the cycle that’s established early on can make quitting especially hard. Heavy smokers may experience intensified feelings of anxiety and depression because their tolerance to nicotine is so high. The pleasure center in the brain becomes accustomed to a certain amount of nicotine day after day. Breaking the cycle by trying to quit only disrupts the cycle and interferes with the individual’s moods.
If you do decide to quit smoking, know that you’re in for a challenge, but it can be done. You are doing your health and your wallet a big favor by quitting. Keep reminding yourself of the reasons you decided to quit in the first place (health, financial reasons, family, etc.) and try cutting down your habit a little at a time. Going cold turkey might sound like the right way to do it, but the chances of going back to your habit are very high. Try asking others for support or to quit with you, or take advantage of some of the nicotine replacement tools that are out there.