Author(s): Winstock AR, Trivedy CR, Warnakulasuriya KA, Peters TJ
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Abstract Use of betel nut (areca nut) and its products is widespread, particularly in the Indo-Chinese continents, being the fourth most widely used substance after tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, affecting approximately 20\% of the world's population. Betel nut, with or without admixed tobacco, is widely used among UK Indo-Asian immigrants, particularly Gujurate speakers. To date most research has concentrated on oral submucous fibrosis and malignancy. This paper reports detailed socio-demographic, clinical, laboratory and psychological studies in 11 current and former heavy betel nut users, referred by an Oral Medicine Unit in NW London. The patients, nine males, two females, had a high incidence of cardiovascular disease and truncal obesity. Laboratory investigations showed a high incidence of reduced serum B12 levels (4/9) and raised urinary cotinine levels (6/11), although none were current cigarette smokers. These findings are consistent with heavy usage of tobacco-areca combinations by this group. Routine biochemical and haematological investigations and clinical examination revealed no consistent abnormalities. Subjects had used areca for an average of 35 years with the mean age of first use being 13 years. Most subjects reported beneficial psychosocial effects. Ten subjects reported cessation withdrawal effects with the mean Severity of Dependence Score of 7.3. These findings are consistent with the existence of a dependency syndrome among those who use areca nut products. Further research is required to delineate the relative contributions of areca nut and tobacco to this clinical picture. Use of the areca nut, especially with tobacco, represents an area of health prevention among the UK minority populations that has, to date, been overlooked.
This article was published in Addict Biol
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy