Nicotine as administered through a medical patch, rather than a tobacco product, was shown in a recent study to have some benefit for nonsmokers with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Not everyone with MCI goes on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, but many people do. Therefore, the interest in studying mild cognitive impairment is intense.
A recent study published in the January 10 issue of Neurology, focused on using nicotine patches for people who were diagnosed with MCI. The results, while not stunning, were positive for a segment of the people. While this isn’t the first time I’ve read about nicotine as a possible treatment for memory issues, my immediate response, as a life-time nonsmoker, was instinctively negative. What about addiction? I rapidly scanned the article for an answer to this question. According to a study write-up in medpageToday:
“The researchers called safety and tolerability excellent for the nicotine patches, with no withdrawal symptoms or continued use of nicotine after completion of the study…Nicotine is critical for addiction [to tobacco] but not sufficient by itself.”
Nicotine and MCI: study results
According to study author, Paul Newhouse, MD of Vanderbilt University, study participants experienced significant improvement in tests that focused on memory, attention and other cognitive areas after receiving a daily 15 mg nicotine patch. Newhouse did not endorse trying nicotine until there’s more evidence, saying that starting to smoke would be a bad idea given its harmful effects, but the patches also require cautions. He said that though patches appeared safe in this study, dosing takes a “light touch” as too much nicotine could actually make people worse.
Mild cognitive impairment and nicotine: what’s the takeaway?
Nicotine patches are already available and widely used by people who wish to quit smoking. As our population ages, more cases of MCI will be diagnosed and more people will be asking their doctors for help with annoying memory issues. If the nicotine patch can be tweaked to release just the right dose, and is proven effective and safe for MCI treatment, this is a drug that won’t need a long testing period to be made available for public use. Only time and more studies will tell. Until then, we wait for more news on this approach.Posted in Dementia, Studies | 6 Comments »
Tags: memory, Studies