Smoking is all kinds of bad for your health, starting from causing cancer to increasing risk of stroke. For years, researchers also knew of a possible connection between daily tobacco use and mental illness, but they had a hard time figuring out which is the trigger and which the result.
A lot of data was collected on this matter since 1980, and researchers from King’s College London’s Department of Psychosis Studies took a good look at 61 studies focusing on relation between smoking and psychosis. According to this data, 57 percent of people who first received a mental illness diagnosed were smokers.
The extensive studies collected data on almost 273,000 non-smokers and 15,000 smokers; some participants were diagnosed with psychotic conditions, such as schizophrenia. Analyzing the data showed that people reporting first-time psychosis episodes were three times more likely to also be smokers.
Same research showed that people who smoked daily usually developed mental illness around a year earlier than those who didn’t smoke.
The long-standing theory is that smoking rates are higher among those suffering from psychosis because they are seeking relief from turmoil or boredom; in other cases, patients used smoking as a way of self-medicating against the nasty side-effects that antipsychotic treatment can sometimes have.
But if this theory were true, professor of psychiatry Robin Murray from the King’s College should have seen smoking rates get higher only after people receive the psychosis diagnose. Consequently, they analyzed the possibility that smoking is in fact a participant factor in developing psychosis and not a self-medicating aftereffect.
However, the research done so far is not conclusive enough to prove without a doubt that smoking causes mental illness, a fact Prof. Murray emphasized in his article.
In spite of the additional research that needs to be done, the results clearly suggested that smoking is a viable candidate to being a possible risk factor for psychosis. Murray said the theory saying smoking is just a consequence of the illness no longer holds.
With the data they have at hand, researchers theorized the association could be explained by the way the brain’s dopamine system works. Dopamine is the chemical that controls the brain’s pleasure centers and the ones responsible for reward.
Psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia, can be explained by the excess of dopamine released during frequent nicotine exposure.
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