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Editor's Pick

Nicotine E‑Cigarettes Might Do More than Save the Lives of People with Schizophrenia

Jeffrey A. Singer

Mental health practitioners have long known that cigarette smoking is prevalent among people with schizophrenia. Research estimates as many as 88 percent of people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes, a rate much higher than in people with other psychiatric disorders and almost three times the rate of the general population. The heavy smoking rate causes many people with schizophrenia to develop smoking‐​related illnesses, from cardiovascular disease to cancer, significantly lowering their life expectancy.

Recent studies suggest that nicotine normalizes cognitive deficits, called “hypofrontality,” in people with schizophrenia. There is evidence that nicotine improves short‐​term memory in schizophrenic patients. Nicotine’s beneficial effects on schizophrenia have led many researchers to suspect that people with this disease are self‐​medicating.

Today in Filter, journalist and filmmaker Helen Redmond unveiled a new short documentary film that she and her colleague, Marilena Marchetti, produced profiling a multicenter trial underway called the Genesis Trial, led by Dr. Pasquale Caponetto of the University of Catania, to see if nicotine‐​containing e‑cigarettes can successfully help schizophrenic patients who are long‐​term smokers to quit tobacco. The study is a 12‐​month randomized, double‐​blind, smoking cessation trial that compares the effectiveness of 5 percent nicotine and 1.5 percent nicotine vaping devices.

The filmmakers flew to Sicily to interview several trial participants at two psychiatric residential facilities. Watch the video “Switch: A Documentary About Smoking and Schizophrenia” here.

Lawmakers and policymakers in the United States and around the globe seek to make it more difficult for adults to obtain nicotine‐​containing e‑cigarettes, especially those with flavors, even while research shows tobacco quitters prefer flavored vaping,

Harm reduction advocates have long argued that nicotine e‑cigarettes are helpful smoking cessation tools and more effective than nicotine patches or gum. When it comes to smokers with schizophrenia, nicotine vapes may reduce cognitive dysfunction at the same time.

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