Nicotine Patches as Treatment for Schizophrenia

Smoking of tobacco is the largest cause of preventable death in the world, and in the US alone, 440,000 people die because of smoking each year. Despite the dangers associated with smoking, new research shows that the drug nicotine (one of the dozens of substances found in tobacco) may actually have some health benefits, including preventing and treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

We speak about the effectiveness of nicotine patches in treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in another post. Today, we will explore how nicotine patches can be used to treat those with schizophrenia.

Science Magazine reports that nicotine can play an important role in helping to regulate a person’s GABA levels or, in other words, making sure all brain communications are operating at the right speed and with the correct intensity. GABA or Gamma-Aminobutric Acid is a chemical that is made in the brain that works by blocking brain signals (neurotransmissions). When there is too little GABA, we become overstimulated and engage in excessive and impulsive behavior. When there is too much GABA, we become overly relaxed and sedated. The levels of GABA are low in schizophrenia as well as in epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Findings from research included that a 14mg nicotine patch improved sustained focus while there was no gain in control subjects. Nicotine was also found to enhance smooth eye movement, or allowing the eyes to closely follow a moving object. The complexity of this task is difficult for those with schizophrenia, indicating that cognitive improvements can be measured by how well movement tracking is performed. In addition to these findings, there are previous studies showing that schizophrenic symptoms return when nicotine intake is reduced.

Do you or a family member have special needs? Twenty million American families have at least one member with special needs, which can include schizophrenia, autism, Down syndrome, bipolar disorder, and numerous other disorders.  Parents of those with special needs are tasked with planning for their children throughout their lifetime, as many of them will outlive their parents but might not be able to support themselves and live independently.

As a parent or guardian, you want to ensure that your child with special needs will remain financially secure even when you are no longer there to provide support.  A Special Needs Trust is a vehicle that provides assets from which a disabled person can maintain his or her quality of life, while still remaining eligible for needs-based programs that will cover basic health and living expenses. Learn more at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website, or call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.


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