OK, maybe I am over exaggerating a little, but new research has been pointing to tobacco as an MAO inhibitor.
What the hell is an MAO inhibitor, you ask?!
Well, a brief explanation of what an MAO is. MAO stands for Monoamine Oxidase. Monoamine oxidase is an isozyme that deaminates norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenaline), serotonin, and dopamine.
Well, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are four of the hundred or so identified neurotransmitters. A neurotransmitter fills the gap between neurons (the synapse) and tells the neuron what sort of message to fire. In other words, they tell your brain what to think.
So deaminating the neurotransmitters means degrading amine based neurotransmitters. It lowers your levels of amine based neurotransmitters.
People with major depressive disorder show increased MAO-A levels of as much as 34% and increased MAO-A levels have been reported in numerous studies on various types of depression.
Ultimately then, an MAO inhibitor has the effect of lowering Monoamine oxidase levels, and therefore can make you less depressed.
So, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are effective antidepressants, especially in the case of the more common Major Depressive Disorder with Atypical Features, which occurs more frequently than Melancholic Depressive Disorder, and considerably more frequently than the rare Catatonic Depressive Disorder, and occurs 2 to 3 times more often in women than men.
So, the obvious question is; what happens if you lower your MAO levels too much?
Well, you won’t be really happy that’s for sure.
Low MAO levels have been associated with “the Warrior Gene”. In other words, excessively low MAO levels have been shown to create aggressive tendencies in both humans and mice.
A small shortage of MAO levels leads to a general feeling of euphoria and increased activity, but if the levels get too low one becomes aggressive and prone to violence.
That means, that not only is it an effective antidepressant, that it’s effects go away when you stop taking it.
So why do we not use more MAO inhibitors? Well, the simple answer is most of them are not reversible; meaning, once you have inhibited your Monoamine oxidase levels, you may never get them back, even if you stop taking the medication! That’s why these studies are amazing, because tobacco smoke is a reversible MAOI and MAOIs are effective in treating moderate to severe depression and anxiety. The only problems with them are, they have many dietary requirements and most of them are not reversible. If tobacco smoke turns out to be as good of an MAOI as it is proving to be, it may explain why many people who suffer from depression and anxiety smoke. Also, MAOIs are used to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, so tobacco smoke may have medical uses in those fields as well.
While these studies are by no means conclusory, they are definitely indicative of something.
It certainly might explain why people say they smoke to “feel better” or “relieve stress”, apparently they are not wrong.
Maybe, this is one of the hidden health benefits of smoking?
I don’t know, I just found it interesting. I think I’ll have a pipe and just feel better!
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!