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Use of Areca Nut and The Need for Awareness - A Reflection from Pakistan

Volume 9 - Issue 4

Syed Uzair Mahmood*, Nouman Mansoor Ali and Ushna Jawwad Awan

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    • Department of medicine, Jinnah Sindh Medical University, Pakistan

    *Corresponding author: Syed Uzair Mahmood, MBBS, Medical Student, Jinnah Sindh Medical University, Karachi, Pakistan

Received: September 27, 2018;   Published: October 09, 2018

DOI: 10.26717/BJSTR.2018.09.001839

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Habitual chewing of areca nut is the fourth most common drug habit in the world, after alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. Around 600 million people around the world practice it. A major extract from the nut is arecholine - an odourless oily liquid, which is a nicotinic based alkaloid. This is not only done for pleasure but also, as a traditional practice in many parts of the world - more specifically in South East Asia. Its traditional influence can be judged by the fact that many places have been named after the areca nut in their native languages. Regarding arecholine’s chemical structure, it has a basic nitrogen which gives it alkaloid like properties. The major source of arecholine is the areca nut which is grown as an agricultural crop in many countries and among these, India is the major cultivator. Being a muscarinic and nicotinic agonist, it has many significant uses, such as its use in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s, but due to its carcinogenic effects it has never been approved to be used commercially.

Clinical evidence has indicated and proved that the use of areca nut causes several types of head and neck cancers, as to effects on intracellular levels of GSH, and on tumor suppressing gene P53 are quite evident. As a South Asian country, Pakistan is also suffering from this endemic habit of chewing areca nut and its devastating effect on general health. Due to its excessive use, Pakistan is now a part of those countries where oral cancer is very common. Several failed attempts have been made in the past to curb its use, but unless the Government of Pakistan takes any legislative step, these attempts can be made successful. Sadly, the government is silent on this condition and due to this, the private sector has to step in to fix this problem on their own.

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