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Am J Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;164(4):670-3.

The effects of an indigenous muscarinic drug, Betel nut (Areca catechu), on the symptoms of schizophrenia: a longitudinal study in Palau, Micronesia.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, California State University, Sacramento, CA 95819-6106, USA. sullivar@csus.edu



This study tested the findings of a prior study indicating a therapeutic relationship between consumption of betel nut and symptoms of schizophrenia.


The subjects were 65 outpatients with diagnoses of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Symptoms rated with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale were compared between high- and low-consumption betel chewers in a repeated-measures design. Movement disorders were assessed with the Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale and Simpson-Angus Rating Scale. Global health and social functioning were assessed with the Medical Outcomes Study 12-item and 36-item Short-Form Health Surveys, respectively.


Male high-consumption betel chewers had significantly milder positive symptoms than low-consumption chewers over 1 year. Betel chewing was not associated with global health, social functioning, or movement disorders. Betel chewing was associated with tobacco use but not with cannabis or alcohol.


These findings have clinical significance in betel-chewing regions and broader implications for theory of muscarinic neurophysiology in schizophrenia.

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