Study Links Smoking to Serious Mental Illness

If you’re a smoker, there are many reasons to quit the habit. Now, there’s a new one: prevent the onset of serious mental illnesses.

According to a new study from Britain, cigarette consumption can be linked to increased diagnosis of psychotic conditions, including schizophrenia.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at King’s College London, was based on an examination of data associated with just under 300,000 people–though only about 15,000 of those people were smokers. The data show that 57-percent of the individuals treated for an initial episode of psychosis were smokers.

The study also revealed that psychotic patients were three times more likely to be cigarette users than people who did not have a mental health problem. In addition, the study revealed that, on average, people who smoke every day developed a psychotic condition earlier than non-smokers.

Those behind the study acknowledge that their investigation does nothing to show what the link between smoking and psychosis may be. But they insist there’s evidence that a connection exists and this link should be investigated.

“The fact is that it is very hard to prove causation without a randomised trial, but there are plenty of good reasons already for targeting public health measures very energetically at the mentally ill,” noted Professor Sir Michael Owen, a researcher at Cardiff University in Wales.

As for theories, King’s College professor Sir Robin Murray suggests cigarette use could affect dopamine levels. “Excess dopamine is the best biological explanation we have for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia,” Murray said. “It is possible that nicotine exposure, by increasing the release of dopamine, causes psychosis to develop.”

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