The Good Side to Nicotine
Everybody knows that smoking can kill you but it's not just the smoke that kills you, it's also the nicotine. Nicotine is a alkaloid most commonly found in tobacco in high concentrations. The use of tobacco is common in most parts of the world, because it has the ability to regulate one's mood and improve cognitive functioning.
Nicotine can be deadly since it is connected to most cases of cancer but there's another side to the story. Nicotine acts on different neurotransmitters in the brain and according to researchers this shows that nicotine can have a positive effect on some medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease.
Epidemiological studies have shown that smoking protects you against Parkinson's disease. The reason for this is that nicotine protects dopamine neurons(Parkinson's disease is caused by the loss of these neurons). Some studies have failed to show a therapeutic effect but they used low doses of nicotine, because the patients were mostly non-smokers. Another study showed a clear improvement of their motor function when they used high doses of nicotine. The most common side effects were nausea and vomiting, but the effects were minimized due to the use of anti-nausea medication.
Tobacco also contains antidepressant substances(monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOI's for short) which could help patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression. In the case of people suffering from schizophrenia, nicotine improves cognitive functioning as mentioned earlier and therefore improves their attention. Nicotine may also help patients suffering from mood disturbances (a common effect caused by schizophrenia) by regulating their mood. The studies showed great results but currently no pharmaceutical company are willing to explore nicotine's positive effects on Alzheimer's and schizophrenia.
The positive effects nicotine can have on Alzheimer's is debatable, but some studies have shown that patients with Alzheimer's have less nicotinic receptors in both the neocortex and hippocampus compared with healthy people. As mentioned earlier in the article, nicotine has a positive effect on cognitive functions and therefore, patients with Alzheimer's may benefit from nicotine.
Only a few studies have been conducted to research the positive effects from nicotine. No interest has risen from pharmaceutical companies to explore the positive effects of nicotine and there will most likely not be any interest for a long time.