Watch: Stigma Hampers Recruitment for Nicotine Research

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    Dr. Paul Newhouse has been studying nicotine for three decades, but it’s only in the last few years that he’s had difficulty recruiting participants.

    “The political climate and the concerns of the anti-tobacco and anti-smoking advocacy groups has made it harder to do this kind of research,” he explained. “It has impacted our ability to recruit people to our studies.”

    In Part 2 of our filmed interview in Warsaw (above, and you can check out Part 1 here), the OG nicotine researcher discussed the versatility of nicotine patches, how the vaping panic and nicotine misinformation have impacted his work, his MIND study, and the hedonistic aspect of drug use.

    Newhousewho leads the Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Cognitive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee—uses nicotine patches exclusively in his research.

    “They’re easy to use, the nicotine is absorbed slowly, and the dosing is more consistent,” he told Filter. “Patients think nicotine is addictive but we can quite clearly show that giving nicotine via a skin patch is not addictive.”

    “The idea that you would try to regulate your emotional state with a substance is for some people a difficult thing to deal with. But we do it all the time, right?” 

    The ongoing MIND study, he noted, has shown that nicotine can improve memory loss. But now the study website includes this explainer

    Some people may be hesitant to join a study involving nicotine, because the risks from smoking are well known.

    However, nicotine does not cause cancer, heart disease, or respiratory illness. It’s the tar and thousands of other chemicals in cigarettes that do.

    In fact, researchers have used nicotine in memory studies for more than 30 years. Nicotine, when used as prescribed by a physician, may be safe and may have medicinal benefits … No tobacco companies are involved in the design, financing, or management of the Study.


    Its inclusion reflects how groups opposed to vaping nicotine—such as the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids and Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes—have succeeded in saturating the public with disinformation. The nicotine-free world they want will never happen.

    In turn, a biased media publishes lies about nicotine, characterizing it as a poison that harms the developing brain. Reporting on tobacco harm reduction and nicotine’s benefits—as demonstrated by Newhouse’s pioneering work—is conspicuous by its absence.

    In our interview, Dr. Newhouse also talked about using nicotine for pleasure. Laughing, he said he tried to stay away from the issue because it’s controversial.

    But he got it right: “The idea that you would try to regulate your emotional state with a substance is for some people a difficult thing to deal with,” he said. “But we do it all the time, right?  We drink coffee in the morning, we might have a martini in the evening.”

    When I asked the indefatigable Dr. Newhouse what keeps him going  when nicotine use is under constant attack, he replied with excitement in his voice: “We’re still figuring out what nicotine can do and we’re still learning how to use it. How much to give and who to give it to. All of that is still being explored.”




    • Helen is Filter‘s senior editor and a multimedia journalist. She is on the methadone, vaping and nicotine train. Helen is also a filmmaker. Her two documentaries about methadone are Liquid Handcuffs and Swallow THIS. As an LCSW, she has worked with people who use drugs for over two decades. Helen is an adjunct assistant professor and teaches a course about the War on Drugs at NYU. She lives in Harlem.

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