Different studies conclude in a different way regarding the efficacy of nicotine in treating anxiety. Some studies indicate it as a short-term effect while others provide a mechanism of action for alleviating anxiety. Long-term use of nicotine gum may have side effects.
Is Nicotine Good For Anxiety?
For thousands of years, nicotine is used as recreational drugs. It is derived from the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum. Nicotine is known for its benefits at low doses. The drug has the potential to manage Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia. It is used to kill the intestinal worms for a very long period. However, taking this drug in high doses is lethal.1
Various studies are done to explain the effects of nicotine on anxiety. The results are contradictory. Some studies indicate that nicotine has the potential to prevent anxiety while other studies conclude that although it may reduce the anxiety that is for a very short time and will affect the health in the long run.
In one stud it was concluded that nicotine alters the behavior in people gripped with fear and anxiety. Nicotine also plays a role in maintenance, development, and relapse of anxiety in such patients.2
Another research reveals the mechanism through which nicotine reduces the symptoms of anxiety. It was already known that people are addicted to nicotine because of the reward mechanism. Nicotine is known to enhance the release of opioids which results in activations of opioids in the reward system. Reward system of brain comprises of neuronal structures that provide incentives, motivation and promotes consummatory behavior. However, the study reveals a new mechanism different from the reward system. It was found that nicotine reduces anxiety not by activating the receptor rather it blocks it. In this mechanism, nicotine inactivates Beta 2 subunit of nicotine receptors which results in reduced anxiety.3 This mechanism occurs at an area of the brain different from the reward system.
Is Long Term Use Of Nicotine Gum Harmful?
Nicotine gum is an effective over-the-counter formulation used for smoking cessation. Nicotine gum is used to manage the nicotine withdrawal symptoms after quitting smoking and also reduces the cravings for smoking. Nicotine gum is considered safe by many health regulatory authorities all over the world however, there are certain side effects associated with nicotine gum. When the nicotine gum was first available, the proposed use of this gum was 3 months. However, later on, the treatment time was extended to those people who may take the gum simultaneously with smoking and slowly there would be a reduction in smoking frequency. The treatment time in such a situation maybe 3 months to 12 months or more which is considered as long-term nicotine replacement therapy.4 Following are some of the effects experienced by patients with long-term use of nicotine gums:
Hyperinsulinemia: People who use nicotine gum for a long period may have the risk of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. It has been stated that it is nicotine in the cigarettes that causes insulin resistance and other cardiometabolic disorders.5 Thus, the quitting of smoking with nicotine gum should be for a limited period.
Excessive Dependency On Nicotine: Another important long-term effect of nicotine gum is that people while chewing the gum, still dependent on nicotine. Thus, there might be an excessive dependency on nicotine.
Cancer: Various researches indicate that long-term nicotine gum might lead to cancer, although all the researches are done on animals. Further, it is also said that even if there is any risk, the risk is far smaller than with smoking.
Cholesterol Imbalance: Long-term nicotine may cause an imbalance in various cholesterol parameters.
Nicotine may be good for anxiety. The antianxiety effect comes from a mechanism different from the reward system. Nicotine inactivates beta-2 subunit of nicotine receptors. Long-term effects of using nicotine gum include cholesterol imbalance, insulin resistance and excessive and long-term dependency on nicotine.
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