Scientists have long been familiar with the fact that there is a link between psychosis and smoking. Only in England, 42 percent of people who smoke cigarettes have mental health problems, and in the US about 80 percent of smokers have schizophrenia. In such circumstances, the question is what occurred first: smoking or the mental illness.
The new research, published in the journal “The Lancet”, suggests that tobacco, in some degree, can increase the risk of psychosis.
From meta-analysis of 61 studies the scientists team found that 57 percent of people who are diagnosed with psychosis were smoking, which, by their opinion, indicates that – at least in some cases – smoking preceded psychosis. Of course, one should not ignore the genetic factors, which means that, although the diagnoses wasn’t made before they began to smoke, maybe they had a genetic predisposition for the development of some form of psychosis.
The latest research does not support the popular belief that people suffering from schizophrenia often smoke cigarettes to relieve the symptoms and the side effects of antipsychotics; in a way that smoking provides a self-healing effect.
“These findings call into question the hypothesis of self-healing, as they indicate that smoking has a causal role in the development of psychosis,” says a representative from “Kings’ College”, London, where the research was conducted.
Excessive dopamine release in the brain is the most acceptable explanation for psychosis development such as schizophrenia, since an excess release of this neurotransmitter can cause hallucinations. Drugs that block dopamine release ameliorate the symptoms, while drugs that increase the secretion of dopamine worsen the symptoms. Nicotine affects the increased secretion of dopamine in the brain.
Scientists warn that they need to conduct clinical studies before they can be completely sure that smoking increases the risk of schizophrenia. The development of mental illness is a complex process, and discovering the various factors that may cause them is a very difficult task. Scientists point out that perhaps there is a connection, but the results are not final and that more work should be done.