Tobacco Withdrawal Symptoms Before and After Nicotine Deprivation in Veteran Smokers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and with Major Depressive Disorder.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

INTRODUCTION: The high smoking prevalence amongst individuals with psychiatric disorders constitutes a major public health disparity. Negative reinforcement models of addiction posit that severe tobacco withdrawal symptoms, related to the affective vulnerabilities of these smokers, may thwart their quitting smoking successfully. However, relatively few studies have prospectively examined the effects of nicotine deprivation on withdrawal symptoms in these groups. METHODS: This study compared the level of withdrawal symptoms both before and after nicotine deprivation in those diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorder (MDD) and in those without psychiatric diagnoses. Participants were US veterans who smoked (≥10 cigarettes/day) and met diagnostic criteria for PTSD (n = 38), MDD (n = 43), or no psychiatric diagnosis ("controls" n = 44). Participants attended study visits before and during 48-hour nicotine deprivation to report tobacco withdrawal symptoms. Analyses evaluated withdrawal symptom levels (baseline and during nicotine deprivation) and the change in symptoms related to nicotine deprivation and compared (1) participants with a psychiatric diagnosis versus controls, and (2) participants with PTSD versus MDD. RESULTS: Contrary to hypotheses, nicotine deprivation produced greater increases in most withdrawal symptoms amongst controls than in those with psychiatric diagnoses. Compared with controls, those with PTSD or MDD reported elevated symptom levels both before and after tobacco deprivation for most withdrawal symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that chronically high levels of distress and craving, rather than acute increases in withdrawal symptoms because of nicotine deprivation, may account for the quitting difficulties of those with comorbid conditions such as PTSD and MDD. IMPLICATIONS: Severe tobacco withdrawal may account for the higher quitting difficulties of smokers with either posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorder (MDD). Paradoxically, this study showed that individuals with no psychiatric diagnosis had greater increases in tobacco withdrawal severity because of nicotine deprivation than did those with either PTSD or MDD. Those with either PTSD or MDD showed high stable levels of withdrawal symptom severity both before and during two days of abstinence, suggesting that their quitting difficulties may be related to their chronically high levels of distress rather than nicotine deprivation per se.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kaye, JT; Baker, TB; Beckham, JC; Cook, JW

Published Date

  • June 8, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 1239 - 1247

PubMed ID

  • 33245346

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8186424

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1469-994X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/ntr/ntaa242


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England