Electronic Cigarettes and Schizophrenia

Klaus Kneale
by Klaus Kneale
February 8, 2013

An new study has revealed that electronic cigarettes may help smokers with schizophrenia reduce or quit smoking without exacerbating psychosis the way other prescribed treatments do.  The study comes from a University of Catania (Italy) group, including Dr. Riccardo Polosa — the professor working to verify that e-cigs are successful smoking cessation aids.

Polosa’s current and previous work shows that, among individuals unwilling to quit smoking, electronic cigarettes reduce use of tobacco cigarettes by half for around 50% of participants at 6 months.  Another quarter tend to quit smoking entirely within that time.  These results came from smokers unwilling to quit and without any assistance or support therapy.  This puts the roughly 90% failure rate of accepted cessation methods to shame.  Promising is an understatement.

Read the study here.

This study from Polosa and others focused specifically on the effects of smoking reduction and cessation with electronic cigarettes when subjects have schizophrenia.  This seems like an oddly specific focus area for a study.  With only 14 participants, some individuals may be quick to brush the study aside as too small.  With context however, the study shines.

Currently, the most successful drug treatments for smoking and nicotine dependence come with a laundry list of side effects.  These can include depression, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, rage, suicide, seizures, and more.  In general, neurological issues like epilepsy and psychosis can be exacerbated by these drugs and the results can be terrifying.  That makes this study far more interesting in context.  A successful quitting and harm reduction method without side effects in individuals with schizophrenia bodes really well for the rest of the population.

The Results

All 14 participants were chronic schizophrenic in-patients that smoked 20 or more factory-made cigarettes a day for the last 10 years.  Schizophrenic smokers are hardly uncommon.  A surprising 80% of schizophrenics smoke (compared to a roughly 20% of the general population).  The reasoning often links to nicotine’s ability to soothe, stimulate, and assist neural pathways.

At the one year mark from the beginning of the study, 7 (half) participants had cut from a median number of 30 cigarettes per day to a median of 15 per day.  Two individuals in the study reported complete abstinence from conventional cigarettes.  During the course of the study, a few participants (2 – 4 out of the 14) reported nausea, throat irritation, headache, or dry cough as side effects, but these diminished dramatically at the 24-week mark.

Most importantly, neither positive or negative symptoms of schizophrenia increased following smoking reduction or cessation using electronic cigarettes.  This means use of electronic cigarettes as a harm mitigation or cessation method most likely comes without the psychological effects common to other (currently approved) therapies.

Read our rundown of electronic cigarette research here.


32 Responses to “Electronic Cigarettes and Schizophrenia”

      robovape on February 8th, 2013 8:31 pm

      this is very promising research, thanks for posting!

        michellebastin on February 8th, 2013 9:01 pm

        Very interesting!!

          crystalT64 on February 8th, 2013 11:53 pm

          I know that the patch gave me horrible night mares elevated both my heart rate and blood pressure so i can imagine that certain conditions would be more at risk. Great story

            Donald Hammond on February 9th, 2013 12:32 am

            So that’s why th wife has been a little less crazy 😉

              Steve Mitchell on February 9th, 2013 3:37 am

              thanks for posting

                Sabrina Mitchell on February 9th, 2013 3:48 am


                  slap_maxwell on February 9th, 2013 5:47 am

                  Thanks, Klaus, for digging up all this interesting information. Look forward to seeing stuff with your byline cause I know it’ll be worth the time to read….

                    holden on February 9th, 2013 7:15 am


                      Todd on February 9th, 2013 8:56 am

                      Always nice to see more and more data on the positive side of things with these studies. I hope it keeps coming! The more this stacks and stacks the harder it will be to ignore. Thanks for sharing!

                        saboinia on February 9th, 2013 1:53 pm

                        good read and also works well for people who are bi polar as well

                          Moxie on February 9th, 2013 3:33 pm

                          14 is too small of a study, but the results are interesting! Only 2 actually quit altogether…but it is a good study since the medications for quitting would cause more harm. The majority of test subjects cut back from their 30 cigs per day to 15. At least that is an improvement. And we know that it is true, that the ability to continue to use the physical cues of smoking helps immensely! I know I would not have been able to quit cigarettes without a nicotine device. So the result of only 2 who quit, is surprising to me. I would have thought the results for quitting would be higher.

                            John "Shub" Fellhoelter on February 9th, 2013 4:37 pm

                            Small control group I agree, but this is definitely quite the unique study. There was a publication stating that vaping helped cure an ailment that had no positive results previously. Something doing with Anemia… forget exactly. And although not psychological such as this, still pretty profound and awesome!

                              Amanda on February 9th, 2013 8:01 pm


                                jimpo42 on February 9th, 2013 8:22 pm

                                good read

                                  robovape on February 9th, 2013 9:44 pm

                                  the voices in my head tell me vaping is awesome 😉

                                    chuckss on February 9th, 2013 11:06 pm

                                    Nice info.

                                      Morrinb on February 11th, 2013 5:19 am

                                      Great info. Thanks for sharing!

                                        Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) on February 11th, 2013 12:17 pm

                                        That is very interesting, Never would have guessed that.

                                          Courtney on February 12th, 2013 12:31 am

                                          Interesting article

                                            mrcrunch08 on February 12th, 2013 3:28 am

                                            I love reading good things like this. thanks for posting.

                                              GhOsT DoGg 79 on February 12th, 2013 1:32 pm

                                              nice…Im already crazy

                                                Ralph on February 12th, 2013 1:35 pm

                                                who thinks of these studies.. still interstinf though

                                                  conqwest on February 13th, 2013 2:15 am

                                                  i bet you they were you some relaxing dks e liquid

                                                    kkneale on February 13th, 2013 4:20 pm

                                                    Thanks everyone for the comments! @moxie — you are correct, the normal cessation rates in e-cigs studies are normally closer to 25% or more. However, the limited size of the group means one member swings the percentage by just over 7%. I’m also inclined to believe that the extreme neurological dependence associated between schizophrenia and smoking with reduce the total cessation rate within this focused group.

                                                    But that’s just my guess.

                                                      brianwilson on February 13th, 2013 7:16 pm


                                                        Zane on March 1st, 2013 4:41 pm

                                                        Very interesting..

                                                          ManuDawg on April 1st, 2013 6:32 am

                                                          Interesting results. Schizophrenia is already a terrible illness for someone to have to live with, if Vaping can help people with this illness cut back or quit smoking with no physchological side effects that’s great.

                                                            Jennifer A. aka hallucinoJEN on May 16th, 2013 5:34 pm

                                                            Smoking is high among other mental illnesses as well, too. I would like to see more studies done on patients with bipolar disorder or schizo-affective disorder.

                                                            With that said, there are a lot of people with mental illnesses who haven’t been diagnosed, so even studies that don’t measure mentally ill patients can measure the effectiveness of cessation from ecig use.

                                                              kellli perkins on September 7th, 2013 11:28 pm

                                                              great post

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