Nicotine and Autism
Nicotine binds to nicotinic receptors throughout the brain and the body. Acetylcholine is the naturally occurring molecule that also binds to these receptors. Transdermal nicotine is given to smokers to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Some studies have suggested alterations in nicotine receptors and acetylcholine levels in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Nicotine has been found to reduce symptoms of aggression in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia in early trials. Nicotine also has anti-aggressive effects in mouse models. A single case report describes improvement in aggression in an adolescent with autism spectrum disorder following nicotine administration (Van Schalkwyk et al. 2015).
References and Reading
- Van Schalkwyk, G. I., Lewis, A. S., Qayyum, Z., Koslosky, K., Picciotto, M. R., & Volkmar, F. R. (2015). Reduction of aggressive episodes after repeated transdermal nicotine administration in a hospitalized adolescent with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(9), 3061–3066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar