Who Smokes the Most? The Mentally Ill, and You'll Be Surprised Why

Do you smoke? Many who do, do it to relax.  Experts believe most do it to self-medicate.  But those with mental illness smoke the most, and it's not for the reason doctors originally thought.

Who wouldn't want to do anything they could to feel better than someone struggling with depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia? Mentally ill people were long thought to smoke so much for that very reason.  But a new study has found that that's just not the case.

Instead, "research indicates that psychiatric disease makes the brain more susceptible to addiction," according to newswise.com.

Half of all cigarettes sold are to people with mental illness, statistics show, even though smoking rates have fallen below 25% in the general population.

"This is really a devastating problem for people with mental illness because of the broad health consequences of nicotine addiction," newswise.com quotes R. Andrew Chambers, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Iowa University School of Medicine, which did the study. "Nicotine addiction is the number one cause of premature illness and death in the United States, and most of that morbidity and mortality is concentrated in people with mental illness."

He adds, "The evidence suggests that the vulnerability is an involuntary biological result of the way the brain is designed and how it develops after birth, rather than it being about a rational choice to use nicotine as a medicine.”

The data, he said, point to mechanisms in the brain that increase the risk of addiction,and make the mentally ill more susceptible to developing an overpowering attraction to things like smoking, and drugs.


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