Smoking tobacco is harmful to health. You don’t need to convince anyone of this. However, it turns out that the list of negative effects caused by addiction is longer than previously thought. Nicotine addiction can increase the risk of certain diseases by up to 250%.
It is estimated that over 22% of the general population struggles with tobacco addiction. In our country, the problem of nicotine addiction is even more severe. Less than 29% of adult Poles admit to smoking cigarettes every day. Moreover, smoking is one of the most common causes of death among both men and women. It promotes the occurrence of various types of diseases. We’re not just talking about cancer or heart disease. The list of side effects of addiction – according to the latest research – also includes other disorders that many people had no idea about.
Tobacco smoking and mental disorders
Research conducted in recent years shows a strong correlation between smoking and mental illness. However, scientists were unable to assess what was the cause and what was the effect in this case. Does tobacco addiction cause disorders? Or maybe we reach for cigarettes to alleviate the symptoms of hidden diseases? Scientists from Canada and Denmark decided to look for answers to these questions. A team of experts led by Professor Doug Speed from the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics at Aarhus University analyzed genetic data collected in the British Biobank (they came from over half a million people). Specialists combined it with other health information, entered the resulting database into a computer and began looking for connections between the data. These are not the first attempts of this kind, but in this case another variable, which has been downplayed so far, was also taken into account, i.e. the time dimension.
The numbers speak for themselves. Smoking causes mental illness. Although it is not the only cause, tobacco addiction increases the risk of hospitalization for mental health conditions by 250 percent, emphasizes Doug Speed.
People who regularly smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. What mechanisms are responsible for this state of affairs? Scientists admit that the above-mentioned issue requires additional research. One theory is that nicotine inhibits the process of serotonin absorption (a deficiency of this neurotransmitter may lead to low mood and depressive disorders). There is also another hypothesis – smoking causes inflammation in the nervous system, which damages various areas of the brain. However, none of the presented explanations has been fully confirmed yet.
Is tobacco addiction written in the genes?
Most smokers included in the Danish-Canadian study smoked their first cigarette before the age of 20. The risk of developing an addiction is determined by genes. It turns out that children whose parents are addicted to nicotine have a much greater chance of following in their footsteps than people brought up in families where the problem of addiction did not occur.
But where does the conclusion come from that genetic factors, and not issues related to the imitation mechanism, are responsible for the development of addiction? The researchers looked at smokers who were adopted in early childhood. As it turned out? People whose biological parents smoked tobacco smoked cigarettes, even when their adoptive families avoided nicotine. “We have discovered the existence of many ‘smoking genes’. People who were their “carriers” but did not become addicted had a lower risk of developing mental disorders compared to heavy smokers “equipped” with the indicated genes,” notes Doug Speed.