Medical Uses for Nicotine

Suggested lead:There is growing evidence that nicotine might actually benefit some people as long as it isn't delivered by smoking. Tom Britt has more.

The recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration to label cigarettes a nicotine delivery system has drawn cheers from many in the scientific community, including Colleen McBride, director of the cancer prevention, detection and control program at Duke University Medical Center. McBride says there is a growing body of evidence that nicotine actually relieves some symptoms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and appears to help those with severe depression focus.

"And in fact we might put some of these people on nicotine patches or some type of nicotine replacement therapy for life, because the nicotine itself is not the bad guy - it's the mode of administration."

McBride says there is ongoing research into possible uses of nicotine in a variety of disease treatment programs. However, she says, it is very clear that the side effects of smoking, such as cancer, emphysema and heart disease, make that nicotine delivery system far too dangerous. I'm Tom Britt.

McBride says the benefits of nicotine itself can be compared to caffeine.

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"Nicotine has a lot of therapeutic uses. There's growing evidence that it may be useful in treating Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's - their level of concentration, their ability to focus. Those of us who are caffeine users understand that. Fortunately, coffee hasn't been shown to be a negative or harmful delivery system."