New research has pointed at smoking playing a role in the development of schizophrenia.
Studies suggest nicotine in cigarette smoke may be altering the brain. More research is needed to fully understand the link.
Smoking has long been associated with psychosis, but it has often been believed that schizophrenia patients are more likely to smoke because they use cigarettes as a form of self-medication to ease the distress of hearing voices or having hallucinations.
The study indicated:
- 57% of people with psychosis were already smokers when they had their first psychotic episode
- Daily smokers were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as non-smokers
- Smokers developed schizophrenia a year earlier on average
The argument is that if there is a higher rate of smoking before schizophrenia is diagnosed, then smoking is not simply a case of self-medication.
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Commenting on the Lancet Psychology study on smoking and psychosis, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said:
“As the authors say themselves this study doesn’t prove that smoking causes schizophrenia, it just shows there is a link between smoking and mental health disorders, which we already knew. Smokers with schizophrenia and other serious mental health problems are much more likely to die prematurely from smoking than from their mental illness, and quitting smoking is crucial if they want to improve their health and wellbeing. But smokers with mental health problems find it particularly hard to quit, so should be encouraged to get help from the stop smoking services which can increase their chances of success up to fourfold.”