Over the years the drug known as nicotine has been painted in an evil light, and it’s really no wonder with so many hundreds of death caused each year due to smoking and the addiction it holds over people. Unfortunately, this negative association may leave you blind to the fact that many other addictive and harmful drugs have been quite useful in medical practices. Lidocaine, which is a chemical relative to cocaine, has been used time and time again for anesthetic purposes, and other drugs like morphine is still used today to terminate pain in certain situations. Even alcohol is known to have favorable effects on heart disease when drank in moderation, which can certainly make you wonder about nicotine’s place in the world of helpful chemicals.
Prevention of Movement Disorders
One way that nicotine has been seen to help patients is in trial testing with Parkinson’s patients. This disease leaves people unable to control movement, and overtime the debilitation can result in shakiness, and seizure-like activity. This is due to damaged nerve cells in a section of the brain called the substantia nigra, and their inability to properly produce dopamine. Nicotine has been associated with promoting dopamine production levels, which is why it makes such a good weapon against motor system dysfunctions like that of Parkinson’s. Dan Hurley of Scientific American advises: “The primary neurotransmitter that nicotine nudges is dopamine, which plays an important role in modulating attention, reward-seeking behaviors, drug addictions, and movement.”
In a small percentage of Parkinson’s patients there is a genetic relation, while other cases are suggested to be caused through a combination of environmental and biological factors specific to each sufferer. Most people who are diagnosed don’t learn of the disease until they’re well into their fifties or sixties, but it is possible to be diagnosed earlier than this. Utilizing nicotine in the form of the patch can help slow some of the symptoms associated with this, but won’t fully rectify the deteriorating physical functionality.
Nicotine has been shown to do more than just aid in physical symptoms; it’s also been proven to be a successful memory booster, especially in those suffering from cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you’ve ever smoked a cigarette then you’re likely to recognize that initial energetic rush that you get from the drug; unfortunately, actually smoking nicotine filled tobacco will do more harm than good to your body, but that rush is part of the reason that nicotine works so well to aid in brain response and attention span. Jacob Silverman of How Stuff Works reportson certain nicotine studies and says: “A follow-up study indicated that nicotine may also boost cognitive abilities in elderly people who aren’t suffering from Alzheimer’s but who are experiencing the typical mental decline associated with old age.”
Nicotine alone won’t do the trick in delaying the decay of memory functions, and some mind exercises should be involved in treatment, but this chemical has proven to be helpful and may be introduced in more medications in the future.
Drug Treatments For ADHD
A third area of the medical world where nicotine finds itself useful is in cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is viewed as a disorder of the psychiatric nature and relies heavily on counseling and social alterations combined with medication in high risk cases. The National Center For Biotechnology running a study on the relationship between nicotine and ADHD states: “Laboratory studies have found that acute stimulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors improves cognition in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
This, again, could have something to do with dopamine production and the ability that nicotine has to level out this chemical in the body and ease tension and negative emotions.
The Downside To Nicotine Use
Unfortunately, there is a very serious downside to the use of nicotine, which is why it isn’t regularly promoted as a medical aid, and in fact, is rarely though of except in certain cases. People who use this chemical often will develop a very intense addiction to it, and if treatments are stopped or even lessened then there could be a withdrawal period that includes anxiety, headaches, sadness, and may cause you to become irate and even nauseous.