When the smoke is gone
The high prevalence of smoking in schizophrenia patients has been well known for some time now. However, much is still to learn on the long-term findings of smoking and cognitive functioning or symptoms. Insight into this relationship can be of importance as the self-medication hypothesis suggests that smoking has a beneficial impact on these outcomes in patients with a psychotic disorder. APH researcher Jentien Vermeulen, from Amsterdam UMC sought to examine this association between smoking behavior and changes in cognitive functioning and quality of life. Her studies were published in two renowned journals: The Lancet and The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Vermeulen revealed in her studies that smokers had poorer cognitive performance, higher symptom levels, and inferior quality of life compared to non-smokers. Starting to smoke or smoking more cigarettes per day did not lead to long-term improvement of cognition or symptoms, but was rather associated with more symptoms in the patients. Smokers also exhibited a lower performance in working memory, reasoning, and problem solving skills. Additionally, stopping with smoking resulted in an improvement of speed of processing.
According to Vermeulen’s research, there was an absence of cognitive improvement or symptomatic relief by starting to smoke or increasing the number of cigarettes per day, thereby indicating no support for the self-medication hypothesis. This finding should encourage clinicians to help patients to quit smoking, which may improve patients’ processing speed.