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Nicotine's Effect on Attention Deficits in the Schizophrenic Population

12 August 2017


Background: Schizophrenia is a debilitating psychiatric disease that can cause many symptoms including attention deficits and cognitive impairments. Currently there are no effective treatments for the cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia. There is a large population of smoking schizophrenics, which has pushed research to examine a possible correlation between nicotine and schizophrenia. Research has found that a possible cause for this correlation is self-medication: given that nicotine may enhance cognition. Research has now taken it one step further and examined the effect of nicotine administration on attention performance.

Method: An exhaustive search using MEDLINE-PubMed, MEDLINE-Ovid, CINAHL, Google Scholar, and Web of Science was performed using the keywords: schizophrenia, nicotine, patch, and cognition. Eligibility criteria were applied to refine the search further. Articles were assessed for quality using GRADE criteria.

Results: After completing the search, three articles were selected according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. All studies were RCTs and compared the effects of the transdermal nicotine patch with schizophrenic participants versus controls. One study compared smoking participants, another compared non-smoking participants, and the last one compared both groups. All three studies support the hypothesis that nicotine improves the attention deficits in schizophrenia. The discussed studies focus on short-term effects of nicotine on attention performance, so future research should examine the long-term effects for safety and efficacy.

Conclusion: Administration of a transdermal nicotine patch has been shown to improve attention performance in schizophrenics. If further research validates these findings, usage of transdermal nicotine patches can be considered as an alternative therapy given the ease of use and availability.

Keywords: Schizophrenia, nicotine patch, attention, and cognition


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