January 30th, 2012 at 10:05 am
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Could nicotine improve Mild Cognitive Impairment?

by Carol Bursack

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 »
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6 Comments to “Could nicotine improve Mild Cognitive Impairment?”

  1. Trina

    I am 26 years old and my parents and grandparents smoked in the house all through my childhood. I have never been a smoker myself. In the last 8 years (since i moved out on my own) I have had tons of memory problems and depression problems, the last two years I have had high blood pressure and borderline high cholesterol. I got married a year ago to a smoker that smoked traditional tabaco cigs out side only. Well I also have asthma so when it was attached to his cloths it made it hard to breath. I was diagnosed with early MCI after doing my own research and showing it to the doctor. Most PCP docs don’t exactly keep up with new research. My husband started smoking E cigs and after doing a lot of research I have started using E cigs with a low nicotine level. To be honest its been a month now and I have not had any depressing thoughts, im able to actually breathe better ??? IDK why, maybe because i feel good enough to work out, at least 30 min of cardio a day. my cholesteral is now normal and Im able to focus. The reason i chose the e cig and not the patch is because it helps with my eatting disorder. Im a eatter when i get depressed. no more fog infront of everything i try to take in or remember. well Thats my personal story. Hope it helps.

  2. Trapper M.

    A very interesting study indeed. We know that nicotine is critical for addiction and must find a way to cut the “evil” from its roots.

  3. Jennifer

    Interesting study. Definitely something I am going to try and read more about. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Douglas Baker

    That’s interesting cuz there is a youtube video called “Nicotine Patch Helps Severely-Autistic Adult” This is a case of severe autism with self injurious behavior that has shown to have helped this young adult be calmer and more focused and he seems better after the family started nicotine. you can tell from previous videos he was much worse off.

  5. Beatrix Lewis

    If there are studies that show nicotine patch can improve memory, I guess it’s safe for people to try this. However, they should guide them all throughout process because too much nicotine in their body might not be good for their condition.

  6. Cheryl

    Greetings I am a female who quit smoking at age 45 yrs after smoking for 30 yrs. I am now 53 yrs old and wish I had never quit! After 2 years of putting up with annoying memory loss, I got concerned when it started affecting my job. I saw a neurologist who did a ton of testing and came up with MCI cause unknown, well I knew! It was because I quit smoking! Over the years I fought the urge to start again because of the overall health affects and cost. I have been and continue to struggle and wonder about nicotine being the answer???

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