For physicians specializing in severe mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or chronic depression, helping their patients to quit smoking is traditionally no easy task. People suffering from these types of mood disorders simply have a more difficult time. Doctors avoid a recommendation of quitting “cold turkey” because the resulting withdrawal symptoms can easily trigger increases in symptoms related to their mental illness. In patients suffering from schizophrenia, these related symptoms can include negative thoughts of self-harm, harm to others, and suicide.
Because smoking is bad for the patient’s health, doctors cannot simply ignore the problem. Smoking addiction in schizophrenics is so commonplace that nearly 90 percent of these mental health patients smoke, according to statistics published on Schizophrenia.com. While many physicians have allowed their patients to experiment with more conventional nicotine replacement therapies like “the patch” and nicotine gum, many times these treatments prove unsuccessful long-term.
The Italian e-cig study on vaping and schizophrenia
A group of Italian scientists led by Dr. Pasquale Caponnetto from the University of Catania decided to conduct an e-cig study involving some 300, randomly-selected patients suffering from schizophrenia. The study took place over a period of 12-months, and the patients were offered electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.
“In a prospective 12-month pilot study, e-cigarettes were shown to substantially decrease cigarette consumption without causing significant side effects in schizophrenic smokers not intending to quit, however, in a recent large randomized clinical trial of e-cigarettes conducted in 300 smokers, side effects that are commonly recorded during smoking cessation trials using drugs for nicotine dependence were infrequently reported during the course of the study; for example, at week-2, hunger, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and depression were reported by 6.5%, 4.0%, 3.5%, 3.0% and 2.0% of participants, respectively. Moreover, no serious adverse events (AEs) (that is, major depression, abnormal behavior or any event requiring an unscheduled visit to the family practitioner or hospitalization) occurred during the study. Quitters also reported improved quality of life…”
What Caponata and his team discovered is that the patients experienced a consistent reduction in smoking rates that was greater than 50 percent per patient on average. Simply put, when schizophrenic patients were encouraged to vape, they cut their tobacco consumption by at least half and with no increase in negative schizophrenia-related symptoms.
The Italian vaping study Smoking Cessation and Reduction in Schizophrenia (SCARIS) with e-cigarette: study protocol for a randomized control trial is readily available for review in its entirety via the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCBI).