E-cig study suggests vaping benefits Schizophrenia patients

E-cig study suggests vaping benefits Schizophrenia patients

Patients suffering from schizophrenia often experience hallucinations, delusions, and other forms of altered behaviors.  For decades, mental health professionals have used nicotine treatments as a way to manage these often-debilitating symptoms.  Nicotine is a plant-based product, and scientific research has proven that it acts as a natural trigger of the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain which can help schizophrenic patients to regulate mood.

Nicotine has also proven beneficial in managing the symptoms of chronic depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and even attention deficit disorder.  And because smoking is well-documented to be hazardous to public health, many mental health professionals attempt to convince their patients to quit smoking via nicotine replacement therapies like “the patch” or nicotine gums.

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However, the results have been somewhat mixed and rather unpredictable.  In fact, many times the schizophrenic patients experience an increase in illness-related symptoms.  Quitting smoking is always a stressful and anxiety-producing experience, but for schizophrenics, the resulting mood swings and irritability can be life-threatening.  Vaping may be a viable alternative.

Overview of the Schizophrenia vaping study

According to Schizophrenia.com, approximately 90 percent of schizophrenics smoke combustible cigarettes to self-medicate and manage their symptoms.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even estimates that patients suffering from this mental illness make up approximately 31 percent of the entire smoking population in the United States. 

A team of scientists from the University of Catania, Italy, decided to conduct a research study involving some 300 patients suffering from schizophrenia.  Led by Dr. Pasquale Caponnetto, the researchers asked the participants to switch from smoking to vaping while they recorded any increases or variances in illess-related symptoms.

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The study lasted for 12-months, although not every participant was successful in making the transition to vaping throughout the entire study.  As a result, the 300 participants fell into three categories:

      • Reducers
      • Quitters
      • Nonresponders

What the Italian scientists discovered is that when patients transition to vaping, even in the short term, their standard rate of vaping consumption dropped by over 50 percent compared to their previous rates of daily smoking.  They also experienced no significant adverse side effects.

“In a prospective 12-month pilot study, e-cigarettes were shown to substantially decrease cigarette consumption without causing significant side effects in schizophrenic smokers not intending to quit, however, in a recent large randomized clinical trial of e-cigarettes conducted in 300 smokers, side effects that are commonly recorded during smoking cessation trials using drugs for nicotine dependence were infrequently reported during the course of the study; for example, at week-2, hunger, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and depression were reported by 6.5%, 4.0%, 3.5%, 3.0% and 2.0% of participants, respectively. Moreover, no serious adverse events (AEs) (that is, major depression, abnormal behavior or any event requiring an unscheduled visit to the family practitioner or hospitalization) occurred during the study. Quitters also reported improved quality of life…”

The scientists also note that smoking is a major contributing factor to the high morbidity rates in schizophrenic patients.  Smoking is also a huge financial burden on the patients and their families.  The rising cost of cigarettes in one significant expense, but the resulting medical bills from smoking-related illnesses which are almost certain to coincide with a life of smoking should not be discounted.  If the mental health community can find a more effective form of substitution therapy for smoking, then patients suffering from schizophrenia might be able to live a longer, more satisfying life. 

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