‘Is nicotine all bad?’ By Kate Kelland

Psychologists and tobacco-addiction specialists, including some in world-leading laboratories in Britain, think it’s now time to distinguish clearly between nicotine and smoking. The evidence shows smoking is the killer, not nicotine, they say.

“We need to de-demonize nicotine,” said Ann McNeill, a professor of tobacco addiction and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, who has spent her career researching ways to help people quit smoking.

Exp_8_NicotineV2

Smoking kills half of all those who do it – plus 600,000 people a year who don’t, via second-hand smoke – making it the world’s biggest preventable killer, with a predicted death toll of a billion by the end of the century, according to the World Health Organization.

Few doubt that nicotine is addictive. How quickly it hooks people is closely linked to the speed at which it is delivered to the brain, says McNeill. The patch is very slow; gum is slightly quicker. But there is no evidence as yet that significant numbers of people are addicted to either. Daniel, who works long hours in London’s financial district, says he chews less on weekends when he’s relaxing, doing sport and hanging out with his kids.

One reason smoking is so addictive is that it’s a highly efficient nicotine delivery system, McNeill says. “Smoking a tobacco cigarette is one of the best ways of getting nicotine to the brain – it’s faster even than intravenous injection.” Also, tobacco companies used various chemicals to make the nicotine in cigarettes even more potent.

Pure nicotine can be lethal in sufficient quantities. There is some evidence it may lead to changes in adolescent brain development, especially to the part responsible for intelligence, language and memory.

Stanton Glantz, a professor of tobacco at the University of California, San Francisco, says the younger kids are when they start using nicotine, the more heavily addicted they get. “This is likely because their brains are still developing,” he said.

Countering that, others say studies have focused on animals and that in any case, nicotine should not be available to under-18s. Michael Siegel, a tobacco control expert and professor at Boston University, says that in the few studies so far, such effects have been seen only in smokers, not smoke-free nicotine users.

Elsewhere, studies have looked at nicotine’s potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and to delay the onset of Parkinson’s.

A study in the journal Brain and Cognition in 2000 found that “nicotinic stimulation may have promise for improving both cognitive and motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease.” Another, in Behavioral Brain Research, suggested “there is considerable potential for therapeutic applications in the near future.” Other work has looked at the stimulant’s potential for easing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

See the whole article here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s