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Research suggests vaping nicotine may be effective Alzheimer’s treatment

Much has been said about the possible positive effects of medical marijuana as an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, but numerous research studies also suggest that nicotine may be just as beneficial.  The U.S. Food and Drug Association is even allowing major pharmaceutical companies like GW Pharma to potentially make billions by developing new medicines based on the key components of the marijuana plant. 

But nicotine is also a natural plant alkaloid, and scientists have been conducting research for decades regarding its possible neurological benefits, too.  In a 2012 study conducted by Dr. Paul Newhouse of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Cognitive Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, the researchers discovered a link between nicotine and enhanced brain functions in elderly patients suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). 

Nicotine, Alzheimer's, and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

The study entitled Nicotine treatment of mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month double-blind pilot clinical trial is available in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCBI). While the Newhouse study focuses on transdermal nicotine treatments like “the patch,” vaping has since taken the world by storm and may be a much more effective way to introduce nicotine into the bloodstream.

    • Using testing scores, the Newhouse study evaluating the use of nicotine patches on elderly nonsmokers shows an average gain of 46 percent in their age-adjusted normal long-term memory.
    • Meanwhile, patients who did not receive the nicotine-enhanced patch saw their memory scores decline by an average of 26 percent.
    • These results mirrored those of a previous Newhouse study from 1990 where the researchers introduced the nicotine to the patients intravenously as opposed to the patch.
    • The intravenous nicotine study can also be found on the NCBI website.

These former studies lasted for approximately six months each and were comprised of a rather limited sample group of less than 70 participants.  Newhouse now wants to expand on this previous research. 


Vanderbilt University has just announced the formation of a new project which will involve some 300 healthy, non-smokers above the age of 55 to participate in the Memory Improvement Through Nicotine Dosing (MIND) study.  Selected participants will be evaluated over a two-tear period via twelve, regularly scheduled examinations and testing procedures.  Two control groups will be formed, one ingesting daily nicotine and the other using placebos.

“People think of [Nicotine] as a potentially noxious substance, but it’s a plant-derived medication just like a lot of other medications.” 
“I am convinced that we will find a way to help improve early memory loss and make a real difference in people’s lives. In this study, we have an inexpensive, widely available potential treatment.”
- Paul Newhouse, Director, Center for Cognitive Medicine at VUM

Even though medical research seems to indicate that nicotine therapy can improve memory functions and cognitive reasoning skills, the scientific community seems to be having a slightly tougher time selling the notion of nicotine-enhanced medications to the FDA.  The misconception that nicotine and smoking are forever linked is still a major obstacle in achieving funding for more research.  However, Dr. Newhouse believes that nicotine has the potential to be a lifesaving medication and continues to push forward.


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