A Nicotine Pill Could Help Dementia Patients

By Eliza Strickland | July 14, 2008 8:37 am

cigarette burningBritish researchers have found that giving nicotine to lab rats boosts their concentration and memory, and say that the findings could point the way towards pharmaceuticals that could treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This benefit may be linked to the effect nicotine has on addicted smokers: The “boost” in concentration that smokers experience from cigarettes could help sufferers fight the mental decline associated with dementia, studies suggest [Telegraph].

Researchers are definitely not suggesting that elderly people take up smoking or start wearing nicotine patches in an attempt to ward off dementia, as the negative health effects would far outweigh any benefits. Lead researcher Professor Ian Stolerman said: “Nicotine, like many other drugs, has multiple effects, some of which are harmful, whereas others may be beneficial. It may be possible for medicinal chemists to devise compounds that provide some of the beneficial effects of nicotine while cutting out the toxic effects” [BBC News].

In the study, which will be presented today at a neuroscience conference in Geneva, researchers found that rats injected with nicotine were more likely to complete tasks correctly than a control group while researchers tried to distract them with flashing lights and sounds.

Efforts are already underway to translate these results into human terms. Drugs based upon the chemical structure of nicotine are already in phase 2 trials to see whether they can forestall the mental decline of Alzheimer’s patients [The Times]. But researchers caution that there’s no evidence that nicotine decreases the risk of getting dementia, only that it may help treat the symptoms and give patients a few extra months of lucidity.

Image: flickr/SuperFantastic

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain
  • http://God,Mom,Alzheimers,andMewww.copingandpraying.blogspot.com Linda Born

    In the comments following the Times article one person mentioned that Nicotine mimics the effects of acetylcholine. We already have a non-addictive drug that prevents the breakdown of acetycholine in the brain–brand name, Aricept. It is an approved Alzheimer’s drug. Since the predicted effects of Nicotine are very similar to the benefits of Aricept, in any article citing the nicotine research it would be prudent to mention that a drug already exists that has a positive effect on acetycholine levels in the brain. This might prevent some who are more frightened of dementia than of the effects of nicotine from starting to smoke or wearing a nicotine patch as an Alzheimer’s disease preventative.

  • john raguso

    Niacin, taken by many to lower cholesterol, is chemically based on Nicotine; another name for Niacin is Nicotinic Acid. Could it be that it would also have a positive effect on demantia ?

  • Helen

    The entire B complex helps the way John mentions for Niacin. Many people who have Alzheimer’s have spent a lifetime eating foods completely devoid of a full complex of any sort of nutrient. I think that Alzheimer’s is precipitated by poor eating habits even among those wealthy enough to buy produce with all the nutrients because culture deems sweets and white flour to be a sign of upperclassness even in a century when Organic Gardening is not just a magazine.

  • Pingback: Jessie()

  • Bob Kernnedy

    I have colitus. I once quit for Three months and my colitus came back after twenty years of remission. I need a nicotine pill that is about a pack a day. Is there such a thing?

  • Andrea

    I too have ulcerative colitis which is brought on every time I quit smoking. I need the nicotine!! Thickens the lining in my colon so I’m not so prone to ulcers. Where can you get nicotine pills?

  • Marti

    I have ADHD and the only thing that helps me stay calm and focused is smoking, each time I try to quit, I go beserk, and can’t concentrate on any thing. I want to quit smoking, Where can I get nicotine pills?

  • Stan

    Try the patch. It’s over the counter in the USA.

  • Pingback: Skip dinner, live to 113 | Crowhill Weblog()

  • http://www.smokefreechoice.com John McBride

    I am a heavy smoker, I drink Niclite (nicotine water) and it has helped me cut back from two packs a day to half a pack a day. I would highly recomend it to anyone who wants to smoke less. I carry a bottle with me where ever I go and if I get a craving to smoke I sip on the water. Great product.

  • Robert Towsley

    I have been reading articals on ecigarettes and nicotine. If you are a smoker this is a great way to get your nicotine and alleviate the stress of quiting tobacco. I quit smoking 25 years ago, and haven’t felt right since. I took up vaping ecigareetes and find myself much more content and less stressed. I believe that the stress of quitting smoking is very hard on a person’s mental and physical health. There are many testimonials on the internet. Ecigarettes have been on the market for five years now with no negative affects known. Only praise from users. try some research into ecigarettes.

  • http://www.casaa.org Elaine Keller

    To Linda Born: “Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea were the most common reasons why people stopped taking Aricept. Side effects tend to be less severe if the dose is slowly increased over a period of several weeks.” My mother has been diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease, a form of dementia related to Parkinsons. The doctor took her off Aricept because diarrhea never stopped after several months at the low starter dose. When I have stopped smoking by going all the way off nicotine, my cognitive impairments were severe and did not relent until I resumed smoking six months later. I have since learned that nicotine prevents the build-up of Lewy Bodies in the brain. Luckily, about a year ago I discovered that I could take in adequate doses of nicotine to maintin normal cognitive function by using an electronic cigarette. The e-cigarette delivers vaporized nicotine without the tar, carbon monoxide, particulates, and 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke. My lung health has improved dramatically. The worst side effect anyone has ever reported in using an e-cig is a sore throat. Staying well hydrated usually clears that problem up quite easily.

  • http://www.ecigrankings.com/ Marcelino Stoey

    This is very fascinating, You’re an overly professional blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to in the hunt for extra of your magnificent post. Additionally, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

  • http://www.casaa.org Thad Marney

    “Researchers are definitely not suggesting that elderly people take up smoking or start wearing nicotine patches in an attempt to ward off dementia, as the negative health effects would far outweigh any benefits”

    What are the negative health effects of wearing nicotine patches? Is there enough risk posed by existing smoke-free nicotine products and medicines to justify a New Drug Application to the FDA or would it be more practical to simply recommend reduced risk recreational nicotine / smoke-free tobacco products? It would certainly be less expensive.

  • June

    I am sure there are a lot of people who have dementia who are smokers, so I really don’t believe nicotine keeps people from getting dementia.

    Those who have suffered through lung cancer may think that it is a worse evil than dementia as well.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar