Smoking cigarettes might increase people’s risk of psychosis, say researchers who believe tobacco as well as cannabis could play a part in causing schizophrenia.

It has long been recognised that people suffering from psychosis tend to smoke more than most of the population, but it has generally been assumed they are self-medicating. “Having psychosis is a very distressing thing – hearing voices, having delusions,” said Dr James MacCabe from King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, one of the authors of a new study.

“The argument goes, why wouldn’t people smoke to alleviate the distress?” They might hope it would help with the symptoms and their impaired thinking processes and possibly counter the side-effects of antipsychotic drugs, he said.

? Psychosis Study

But an analysis of a number of studies on smoking tobacco and psychosis, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, now shows that smoking may be a causal factor by itself.

Smoking increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc. However, whether cigarettes themselves may increase the risk of psychosis is not known.

? Findings + Conclusion

A recent study in the Lancet Psychiatry showed that daily use of tobacco is associated with an increase risk of psychosis and an earlier onset of the disease. More than half – 57% – of people arriving at mental health services with their first episode were smokers, which is nearly three times the normal occurrence in the population. Smokers experienced psychosis one year earlier than non-smokers.

“We can’t say that we have proof that cigarette smoking causes schizophrenia,” said Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at King’s. “Indeed it is very difficult to point to any particular factor and say it causes schizophrenia. It is a bit like heart disease – there are a number of risk factors. You inherit some vulnerability and … are exposed to various things which increase the risk to your life.”

So for all the various health-related issues and diseases known to be caused by smoking … simply stop smoking … now.

? Reference