Fascinatingly, a new study is underway in order to determine whether or not nicotine that’s isolated from the tobacco plant can actually act as a preventative treatment for diseases such as dementia that result from cognitive decline. The MIND study aims to prove that nicotine is actually a highly useful and beneficial compound that does not need to be stigmatized simply because of its association to cigarettes over the last several decades.
Currently, the researchers behind the MIND study are trying to come up with funding as well as the proper number of participants. If the study is successful, it could change social attitudes toward nicotine. Vaping experts believe that this study may help the industry by showing that nicotine products that do not contain the harmful chemicals in tobacco do not need to be treated in the same manner as cigarettes.
A New Look at Nicotine as an Independently Beneficial Compound
The MIND Study is the brainchild of a group of researchers at Roper St. Francis Research and Innovation Center in South Carolina. The group is primarily interested in nicotine’s potentially positive effects on cognitive function. The aim of the study is to determine whether or not nicotine can be used to prevent cognitive decline that can lead to Alzheimer’s. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects about 5.8 million Americans, most of the sufferers being senior citizens. At the moment, there is no known cure, and the mortality rate is concerning.
Now, the researchers behind the study first found a link between cognitive function and nicotine use after coming across another study that was done in 2004. This study found that people suffering from schizophrenia and ADHD used cigarettes to self-medicate. Upon closer look, it was determined that the nicotine in cigarettes boosted cognitive function in these patients. ADHD and schizophrenia, although very different in terms of the symptoms that are displayed by the patients, both occur as a result of cognitive impairment. The patients found that by sustaining a steady amount of nicotine throughout the day, many of their symptoms were manageable. This may explain why nicotine use among mental health patients is extremely high even though the number of smokers in America continues to drop every year.
Of course, the MIND study is fairly controversial. In order to do the study properly, the researchers are involving several research centers around the country. A large number of participants are necessary, as is a good deal of funding. Because of nicotine’s association to the rightfully stigmatized tobacco industry, it may be difficult to find financial support.
How the MIND Study Will be Performed
A large number of participants will be split into two groups. One group will be wearing nicotine patches throughout the day so that they maintain an even, high level of nicotine in their bloodstream for the duration of the study. The other group will be wearing a placebo patch.
Throughout the study, the participants will have their cognitive function carefully tested so that the researchers can determine the correlation between nicotine and certain mental attributes such as memory, concentration, motivation, mood and ability to make decisions.
Can Nicotine Actually Prevent Cognitive Decline?
This has been a question asked and continuously researched. Here’s what has been found so far.
The researchers are primarily testing nicotine’s effects on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI precedes dementia. It’s most frequently the result of the natural aging process. As we get older, our neurons stop regenerating, meaning that certain cognitive attributes begin to decline. The problem is that MCI is difficult to diagnose as often, the patient is not aware that it’s happening. Additionally, many people wrongfully brush off MCI as a natural sign of getting older.
Nicotine’s Potential Benefits
As we know, nicotine is a natural stimulant that triggers the brain’s pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters. When we consume nicotine, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is associated with the brain’s reward response, and when it is released, we feel satisfied. Nicotine also speeds up bodily processes because of the way in which it interacts with the nervous system.
Currently, there is much debate regarding whether or not nicotine on its own is harmful. The general consensus is that nicotine is not linked to any particularly serious health concerns. Of course, nicotine gets a bad reputation because it’s one of the many ingredients in cigarette tobacco. However, nicotine, unlike many of the chemicals found in cigarettes, is not a known carcinogen.
Can the MIND Study Change Attitudes Surrounding Nicotine?
If the MIND study proves that nicotine can prevent cognitive decline, it’s possible that the medical industry will take its benefits seriously. The researchers are hopeful that nicotine-based drugs will eventually be approved by the FDA in an effort to impact the Alzheimer’s epidemic that our country is experiencing.
However, the FDA is known for being strictly against nicotine products, meaning that they consider any product containing nicotine as harmful as cigarettes. The FDA has famously spoken out against the vaping industry, believing that e-cigarettes are not a better alternative to smoking. So, it’s safe to say that the researchers behind the MIND study will be up against a lot of resistance.
Still, if the study is successful, we may finally have a preventative treatment for one of the most tragic diseases in America.
Nicotine Might be Part of the Future of Preventative Medicine
While preparations for the MIND study are still underway, those who support the use of nicotine are hopeful that the study is successful and that it makes a significant impact on the medical industry.