Who among most people nowadays has
never smoked? May it be trying hookah at a family gathering, or puffing on a
cigarette behind the school to rebel against authority? Smoking tobacco has
been around since the dawn of man, specifically starting with the Native
Americans who smoked a strain that caused them to hallucinate- that would
explain the animal Gods they would “perceive” in their campfires. Tobacco is
smoked for it’s main psychoactive drug, the infamous nicotine. A stimulant and a depressant, as any smoker
can confirm, it is a surprisingly addictive drug, some affirm more than heroin-
the most popular addictive substance to be abused usually by depressed people.
delivery devices come in many forms, cigarettes were the most mainstream ones. Recently
however, E-cigarettes and vaping devices are becoming more and more popular.
Marketed at children indirectly, by mixing tasteful flavors like fruit mixes,
sweet cakes etc.… A young generation is becoming more and more addicted to
nicotine. Pipes, cigars, hookahs and even chewing tobacco all rely on the same
process, administrating nicotine to the bloodstream, only difference is their
modus operandi. Society helps into encouraging younger people to smoke as well,
but our main topic is nicotine’s effects on the mentally ill and why the latter
are more prone to getting addicted to it than “normal” people.
of drawing on a cigarette, the oral fixation it gives, simply looking the smoke
gives smokers the relaxing “high” they always chase. The problem I am reporting
is the relation between smoking and mental diseases. Indeed, nicotine in all
its forms seems to regulate cognitive and sensorial behaviors in people with schizophrenia.
The properties of nicotine are still in study since it is both a stimulant and
depressant. That has been a point of interest for scientists for as long as tobacco
was consumed. Cigarettes are brilliantly engineered to deliver a “hit” in a
matter of seconds after consumption. That rush stimulates the production of
epinephrine which increases blood pressure, glucose levels and heart rate. So,
that is similar to a cup of coffee -if that were nicotine by itself in the
cigarette! Moreover, the release of dopamine inhibited by the inhalation is
reported to be such as taking heroin or cocaine; the same brain scans are seen
and could explain the pleasure felt by smokers. The nervous system grows so
accustomed that one to two cigarettes barely feel like having took two puffs.
That is the tolerance being built up. Quitting has consequently been described
as the hardest substance to cease after heroin. May it be influenced by a
smoking friendly entourage, or simply advertisements cleverly placed smoking
has always been an epidemic. But what about the mentally ill? Especially
schizophrenics… Numbers show that its sufferers smoke up to three times more
than the populace. Nicotine levels are even higher since their bodies extract
more of the addictive drug. Indeed, its receptors are intricate to cognitive
functions, pain relief and reward systems. Evidently, schizophrenics, who have
poorer receptors in the hippocampus cortex absorb and interact heavily with
nicotine. Tests have shown that the more nicotine they intake, the more
“normal” they perceive their surroundings; thus, less distortion. Patients see
it as a form of “self-medication”, and what first drives them to start is the
idea that smoking relieves stress and anxiety.
does not concern schizophrenic patients only, since many bipolar-mood disorder,
studies have proven that rates amongst those affected are higher as well. Those
who are highly dependent on tobacco use show higher mood scores; a scale that
shows how much they are likely to go into manic-depression. Thus, bipolar
people use smoking as a self-help tool. They exhibit higher susceptibility to
smoking. That would explain why many psychiatric wards are opting to allow
smoking in their clinics, especially as a compliance tool for tests and taking
medications provided. It is well-known that many mentally ill patients,
paranoid in particular, conceal the medication given to them and thus do not
heal. That is why a recent study in Italy has shown that e-cigarettes, that
deliver the needed nicotine without the accompanying tar and chemicals can
reduce health effects by 50%. And in severe cases, healing mentally outweighs a
little higher blood pressure or cardiovascular issues.
issue is the addictive and dependent personality that mentally ill patients are
prone to display. A society that taboos smoking is indirectly encouraging
bipolar to smoke even more, as a symbol of defiance. It is a symptom of mania,
doing reckless behaviors.
So, we can
conclude that nicotine itself, as research showed, is simply addictive and not
cancerous. The cigarettes are the ones harmful. E-cigarettes are the way of the
future, to minimize the risks involved. Mental illness is a serious epidemic
and if an addiction to a substance can help cease suicide, psychosis and
nervous breakdowns, why not encourage it?