Friday, July 13, 2007

On the Horizan: Nicotine Prescriptions to Balance Mood

I felt like Woody Allen in the 70's movie "Sleeper" when I came across a news article from "Wired" that touts the potential health benefits of nicotine. Who could imagine that a substance with such a bad rap could actually possess therapeutic qualities?

It appears researchers are now developing nicotine-based drugs that may prove beneficial for brains, bowels, blood vessels and immune systems. Nicotine stimulates a number of brain chemicals including seratonin, dopamine and norepinephrine - the same nuerotransmitters antidepressants work to stimulate. Clinical trials are currently underway for depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, Attention Deficit Disorder anxiety and anger management.

"About half the cigarettes in this country are bought by people with psychiatric problems -- high percentages of people with depression and schizophrenia smoke, for example," said Ed Levin, a nicotine researcher at Duke University. "When we can give people their medicine in a form that doesn't kill them, it will be real progress."

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