Is Nicotine Gum good for depression? (+Understanding how it works)

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

Is Nicotine Gum good for depression? (+Understanding how it works)

This article will discuss if nicotine gum can be a good help for people struggling with depression, be they ex-smokers, or not. The article will explain what studies have said, and the benefits that have been observed by people using it.

Is nicotine gum good for depression?

Yes, through some studies that have been made, it seems that the use of nicotine gum, or even nicotine patches can help with the symptoms of depression. This seems to happen because the areas of the brain that are stimulated by nicotine products are the same one that is involved in regulating the person’s mood.

The use of nicotine seems to impact the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, increasing their levels. And since depression can be related to a low level of those neurotransmitters, it makes it easier to understand how it can improve the mood of the person struggling with depression.

A small study was done with 11 people that hadn’t smoked but were experiencing symptoms of depression. Some of them were assigned to wear a nicotine patch, and others no. The participants were asked to answer a questionnaire to assess how depression was affecting them.

After 8 days, the participants that were using the nicotine patch had experienced an important decline in the intensity of their depressive symptoms. 

But before you start considering using nicotine gum as a part of your coping strategies for depression, let’s discuss how it can help people who smoke or have smoked, and people that have never been smokers.

How nicotine gum helps smokers and non-smokers dealing with depression? 

Nicotine is an extremely addictive substance, and as seen, it seems it can help improve a person’s mood. This is something that has led researchers to believe that a lot of people may take up smoking because they feel the positive effects it has on their mood.

As a matter of fact, to affirm this theory that nicotine has a positive impact on a person’s mood. Which can be a reason why people would begin to smoke. Research has shown that people that are more susceptible to depression have double the chance of becoming a smoker. 

It is also known that people that have a higher chance of developing depression, will also have a harder time quitting smoking than people that don’t tend to develop depression. 

But it is important to keep in mind that the main role of nicotine gum is to help someone that has decided to quit smoking. And the research that was done with 608 participants, over 12 months, assed how it can help people that are depressed and not depressed quit smoking.

Through this research, it was shown that the use of nicotine gum makes it easier for both populations to stop smoking. This can be valuable once it is known that depressed people have a harder time quitting smoking. So by using nicotine gum, they can make this process somewhat easier.

As for non-smokers, there should be some care when considering just getting some nicotine gum to feel better when you are depressed. There are very few studies about how prolonged use can affect non-smokers. 

One of them is centered on understanding if non-smokers could get addicted to nicotine gum. This research followed 434 non-smokers that would daily use nicotine gum, between 2004 and 2006. 

What the study showed is that only 5 of them had some sort of dependence on it. And even though this is an extremely low number, it should be taken into consideration that there aren’t studies that explain the long-term impact of using nicotine gum.

Is Nicotine Gum good for depression? (+Understanding how it works)

What are the main causes of depression?

Since talking about the impact nicotine and smoking can have on a person’s mood, it is important to understand what can cause depression. And although this is something still being studied, it is already known that depression is connected to a genetic factor.

So a person that has a family history of depression, has a higher chance of getting depressed. Aside from that, as said, it can be related to a chemical imbalance in the person’s brain. 

Low levels of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters, along with a high level of cortisol, the stress hormone, for a prolonged time, can lead a person to develop depression.

Finally, depression can be related to dealing with a traumatic event, such as the loss of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. 

What lies ahead?

What is seen is that there is still a long way to go in the field of how nicotine can help people with depression. Although it seems to be clear that nicotine has a positive effect on a person’s mood, how addictive it is, can also be a problem.

This leads people to urge the substance, which can, with time, also harm the person’s mental health. What is known nowadays is that some pharmaceutical companies are working on creating something similar to nicotine, that wouldn’t be addictive, but that would also be able to reset the chemical imbalance in the person’s brain.

That would not only be useful for people with depression. But it would also be great for people with anxiety, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, and even Parkinson’s disease. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Is nicotine gum good for depression? 

What are the most common side effects of using nicotine gum?

The use of nicotine gum can come with some side effects such as problems in the mouth, jaw, or teeth. It can also cause the person to have diarrhea. These side effects can happen mostly as you begin to use the nicotine gum. But if they persist after a while, you may want to stop using them. 

But other side effects should lead you to stop using nicotine gum right away, such as severe dizziness, changes in your mental state, or your mood, which can be irritable, or even trouble sleeping. 

Aside from those, you should stop the use of nicotine gum if you experience numbness of hands or feet, and swelling of hands, ankles, or feet.

You should look for medical help right away if due to the use of the nicotine gum you experience chest pain, confusion, pounding heartbeat, trouble speaking, or even weakness on one side of the body.

 And although it is rare for people to develop an allergic reaction to nicotine gum, if you experience rash or hives, you should stop using it right away. 

How should I use nicotine gum?

Nicotine gum usually comes in two doses. One that contains 2mg, which is indicated for people that smoked less than 25 cigarettes a day. And one of 4mg, which is usually recommended for people who smoked more than 25 cigarettes a day.

If you are having one, you should prevent yourself from eating or drinking anything 15 minutes before. That is because those can reduce the capacity of absorption of nicotine. You should never swallow your nicotine gum.

Once you put it in your mouth, you should begin to chew it slowly until you feel a tingling sensation. After that happens, you should place the nicotine gum between your cheeks and gum. Leave it there until the tingling sensation is gone, and then go back to chewing it slowly.

You should keep this process until the gun doesn’t bring you any tingling sensation anymore. This usually happens after 30 minutes. 

Is vaping better than nicotine gum to help one stop smoking?

It has been recently discovered that vapes with nicotine tend to be more effective in helping people stop smoking than nicotine gums, and patches. They are also safer than cigarettes. But it is still necessary to assess what are the long-term effects of vaping.

But it is important to keep in mind that even though vaping seems to be less dangerous to the person’s health than cigarettes, they are not risk-free. So if you decide to use it as a way to stop smoking, do so, but keep active on the purpose, and process of stopping all of them.

What is the maximum of nicotine gum I should use per day?

You should choose the dosage of the nicotine gum based on how much you used to smoke. And during the day, you should never have more than 24 nicotine gums. 

And after you have been using it for 6 weeks, you may want to reduce the use to one piece between 2 and 4 hours. And then, you can progress to one piece every 4 to 8 hours.

Do this process until you slowly take away all the nicotine gums from your routine. A good tip when you are doing this is to replace the nicotine gum with common gum as you decrease its use.

Does depression have a cure?

No, depression doesn’t have a cure. Rather than that, mental health professionals usually say that a person with depression will go into remission. That is because there is a genetic factor to depression, and it won’t change even through treatment. This makes it impossible to say one will never get depressed again in their lifetime.

And even though this can seem discouraging to people struggling with depression, or that have just gotten in remission, it is important to highlight that when this happens you will be able to regain control over your emotions. Not only that, you will be able to experience joy again, and your interest in things will resume.

What you should keep in mind is that once you are in remission, you should still keep caring for your mental health as a way to prevent, as much as possible, you from having a depression relapse. So try to keep a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and maintain the good practices you discovered when you were struggling with depression.

Conclusion 

This article centered around the use of nicotine gum by people feeling depressed, be they former smokers, or people that have never smoked before. The article showed what are the main benefits of nicotine gum, and how people can use it to help their struggle with depression.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.

References

Duke University Medical Center. (2006, September 13). Nicotine Lessens Symptoms Of Depression In Nonsmokers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2022, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060912225448.htm

Kinnunen T, Korhonen T, Garvey AJ. Role of nicotine gum and pretreatment depressive symptoms in smoking cessation: twelve-month results of a randomized placebo controlled trial. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2008;38(3):373-89. doi: 10.2190/PM.38.3.k. PMID: 19069579.