Scientists have suggested that smoking may be a risk factor for developing psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. While this association has been noted before, little research has been conducted into whether or not smoking could actually be a casual factor for psychosis.
Researchers at Kings College London have however just conducted an analysis of 61 different studies and nearly 300,000 participants and have found that daily smokers who did develop psychosis did so on average, one year earlier than casual smokers. Data published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal also notes that people who suffer from psychosis are three times more likely to smoke than the general population.
Although the findings cannot prove causation, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychosis Studies, Dr James McCabe has said that smoking should be taken seriously as a possible risk factor for psychosis and not dismissed as a consequence of the illness.
Researchers have suggested that a possible explanation for the link could be smoking’s impact on levels of the chemical called dopamine which is found in the brain. This is something which also plays a role in psychotic illness.
Professor of Psychiatric Research at the King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), Sir Robin Murray commented:
“Excess dopamine is the best biological explanation we have for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. It is possible that nicotine exposure, by increasing the release of dopamine, causes psychosis to develop.”
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