Hendricks studies early smoking withdrawal effects in relation to nicotine metabolism

Although the early time course of smoking withdrawal effects has been characterized, the clinical significance of early withdrawal symptoms and their predictors are unknown. Therefore, Peter S. Hendricks, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior, recently evaluated the relationships of early smoking withdrawal effects with quit attempt outcomes and the rate of nicotine metabolism.

Eleven treatment-seeking smokers abstained from smoking for four hours in the laboratory, before making a quit attempt. Withdrawal measures included heart rate, sustained attention, and self-report. Following baseline assessment, withdrawal measures were administered every 30 minutes. At the conclusion of the four-hour early withdrawal session, participants received a brief smoking cessation intervention and then returned one week and then 12 weeks later for outcome assessments that included biochemically confirmed smoking abstinence, cigarettes smoked in the past 24 hours, and self-reported withdrawal symptoms. The rate of nicotine metabolism was estimated at intake using the nicotine metabolite ratio (trans-3'-hydroxycotinine/cotinine) measured in saliva.

Dr. Hendricks and his fellow researchers discovered that greater self-reported negative affect and concentration difficulty during early withdrawal—most notably anxiety—were related with poorer quit attempt outcomes. There was some indication that although a faster increase in craving and greater hunger during early withdrawal were associated with more favorable outcomes, a greater decrease in heart rate during this time was associated with poorer outcomes. Faster nicotine metabolism was found to be related to a faster increase in anxiety but a slower increase in craving during early withdrawal.

The findings of the study lend support to the clinical significance of early smoking withdrawal effects, and suggest that the rate of nicotine metabolism may be a useful predictor of early withdrawal symptoms.

To read “Clinical Significance of Early Smoking Withdrawal Effects and Their Relationships with Nicotine Metabolism: Preliminary Results from a Pilot Study,” to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, click here.