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Does Smoking Help Schizophrenia & Is Nicotine An Acetylcholine Agonist?

Schizophrenia characterizes varieties of disordered thinking, which include delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices, and various paranoid beliefs, which people conspire against the patient. If we have a look at the scenario of Schizophrenia, the disease affects about 1 percent of the total population and causes a substantial burden on afflicted individuals, their family members, and the entire society.

Most of the people suffering from schizophrenia often smoke and they have unique smoking habits. Because of this, scientists believe that nicotine i.e. the addicted tobacco substance represents a specific type of self-medication to normalize a few of the deficits related to the central nervous system associated with the disorder.

Schizophrenia patients often smoke 3 or more times as compared to others and even more than any psychiatric patient. In addition, schizophrenia patients, who often smoke have relatively higher nicotine levels within their bodies. This is because; they intend to extract nicotine in a higher amount in one cigarette as compared to other smokers.(1)

Does Smoking Help Schizophrenia?

Does Smoking Help Schizophrenia?

  • Nicotine and its other receptors help in boosting various body functions, which include thinking ability, cognition, movement, reward, and relief from pain.
  • Schizophrenia patients have limited and poor functioning types of nicotinic receptors, especially in the cortex, cells, and hippocampus, which warp the brain areas or thalamus involved in a wide range of cognitive as well as sensory deficits of the problem of schizophrenia.
  • An increase in the intake of nicotine because of smoking cigarettes or anything else, such as gum, nasal spray or skin patch may normalize sensory disruptions related to schizophrenia on a temporary basis.
  • Nicotine intake improves the ability of the patient’s brain to filter various sounds and to give responses as well as to adapt to various strong sensory inputs.(1)

Nicotine’s Effect On Cognitive Ability

Cognitive ability in schizophrenia patients, such as processing speed, temporary enhancement in the learning ability, attention and memory boost significantly with the nicotine intake on a regular basis. Especially, schizophrenia patients who underwent with nicotine nasal spray or smoked nicotine have experienced improvement in their working memory, while others have had additional impairments.

Other than this, nicotine has proved to be helpful in reducing or managing a few of the schizophrenia symptoms by simply enhancing the deficient levels related to the dopamine chemical i.e. the chemical response to regular the major emotional responses in various brain areas, like prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens.(1)

Is Nicotine An Acetylcholine Agonist?

Yes, it is true. The nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are polypeptides types of receptors, which respond to the neurotransmitter of acetylcholine. Even nicotinic receptors respond to various drugs in the form of agonist nicotine. These are usually present in the peripheral and central nervous system, body muscles and various other tissues of the organisms. If we talk about the presence of nicotine in the human neuromuscular junction, it acts as any primary receptor within the muscle to allow communication between muscles and motor nerves i.e. the ones responsible to control muscular contraction.

If we talk about the peripheral nervous system of humans, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors-

  • Transmit various outgoing signals to the postsynaptic cells present in parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems from the presynaptic cells.
  • Act as receptors present on any skeletal muscle that obtained acetylcholine released to indicate muscular contraction

On the other side, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors regulate various inflammatory procedures and signal via distinct intracellular paths.

Scientists often consider nicotinic receptors as acetylcholine agonist or cholinergic receptors, as they give respond to acetylcholine. Especially nicotinic receptors obtained their names from nicotine, which bind strongly to nicotinic receptors rather than simply stimulating the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors.

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors categorize under ionotropic receptors, as nicotinic receptors are helpful in the transmission of outgoing signals for both parasympathetic and sympathetic systems, antagonists of nicotine receptors, like hexamethonium, interferes with the transmission of the respective outgoing signals. For instance, nicotinic receptor antagonists often interfere with baroreflex, which usually makes changes in one’s blood pressure by both parasympathetic and sympathetic stimulation of his/her heart.(2)

Reference Links:

  1. https://www.brainfacts.org/archives/2008/smoking-and-schizophrenia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotinic_acetylcholine_receptor

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 27, 2020

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