Schizophrenia smokers are twelve more times likely to die from heart disease related to smoking than are those who do not smoke
"Smoking is a real problem for people with schizophrenia," said Stéphane Potvin, a researcher at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and lead author of the study.
"Their health and life expectancy are often undermined by this addiction, whose brain mechanisms were until now largely unknown," said the associate professor at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Medicine.
Essentially, the research team observed greater neuronal activation of a specific region of the brain (vmPFC) in schizophrenia smokers compared with healthy subjects when presented with appetitive cigarette images.
At the behavioural level, the researchers also found that schizophrenia smokers had more depressive symptoms than did participants in the control group.
"These observations suggest that smoking has a greater rewarding effect in schizophrenia smokers.
This corroborates the hypothesis already formulated of their increased vulnerability to this addiction but also demonstrates the great difficulty for them when it comes to quitting smoking," said Potvin.