Although nicotine contributes to health risk and even possible death from use, nicotine contains medicinal attributes for the nervous system.

"Nicotine in tobacco form accounts for millions of deaths each year from cancer, emphysema and heart disease. Yet, in certain neurologic and psychiatric conditions, nicotine can have useful therapeutic effects, reported scientists at the inaugural conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

"Nicotine has long been a useful tool for researchers interested in probing the nervous system. Although the health risks associated with its intake via tobacco products has tended to tarnish society's view of nicotine, it is important to recognize that nicotine may have therapeutic potential with a number of disease states," noted Ovid Pomerleau, Ph.D., Director of the Behavioral Medicine Program, University of Michigan and President of the SRNT.

Nicotine is one of the most studied of all drugs. At the beginning of the century, the earliest research into neurotransmitters involved the effects of nicotine, indeed the first neurotransmitter receptor identified was the nicotine receptor. Nicotine mimics the actions of acetylcholine and has been shown to modulates many neurotransmitters.

In recent years there has been considerable research into the role of nicotine receptors in the central nervous system in human cognitive functioning. Initial investigations of the effect of nicotinic agents in both normal and diseased individuals has confirmed the importance of the integrity of these systems for normal cognitive functioning, he said.

There is now some intriguing new data suggesting that very low doses of nicotine can have dramatic effects in controlling the symptoms of Tourette's syndrome, a rare neurologic disorder characterized by physical tics and uncontrollable vocalizations which are often filled with obscenities.

The medical world could benefit from the positive attributes found in tobacco. Increase medical use of tobacco could increase overall demand and revenue to tobacco producers."