A PhD graduate at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, has said that her study into the link between tobacco smoking and schizophrenia should prompt a re-think of smoking bans in hospitals, according to a story by Ged Cann for stuff.co.nz.
The study found that smoking could alleviate some symptoms of schizophrenia, and, according to the study’s author, Uta Waterhouse, this raised the question of whether current legislation, which prohibits smoking in places such as hospitals and other healthcare facilities, might be having adverse effects on schizophrenic patients.
Smoking rates among people with schizophrenia are between 75 percent and 90 percent, while the rate among people with other mental disorders is about 50 percent and that among the general population is about 20 percent.
Waterhouse said her research had found that nicotine improved the cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia.
These deficits included a reduced ability to focus on a task, ignore irrelevant information, and inhibit a startle response.
Otago University senior lecturer in psychological medicine Giles Newton-Howes was quoted as saying that he had serious concerns about Waterhouse’s research being used to influence policy. Nicotine was a stimulant, so you expect it to improve most peoples’ cognitive function, he said.