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Smoking rates are up to five times higher in people with schizophrenia than in the general population, placing these individuals at high risk for smoking-related health problems. Varenicline, an α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist, is a promising aid for smoking cessation in this population. To maximize treatment efficacy while minimizing risks, it is critical to identify reliable predictors of positive response to varenicline in smokers with schizophrenia.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are related to dysfunctions in the brain reward system, are associated with nicotine dependence, and may be improved by nicotine or nicotinic receptor agonists, suggesting that smoking cessation may be especially difficult for patients with substantial negative symptoms. The purpose of the study was to evaluate negative symptoms as predictors of response to varenicline.
Patients with schizophrenia (N = 53) completed a 12-week smoking cessation trial combining varenicline with cognitive behavioral therapy. Negative symptoms were assessed via the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (Andreasen 1983). Outcomes included smoking abstinence as assessed by self-report and expired carbon monoxide. Change in performance on a probabilistic reward task was used as an index of change in reward sensitivity during treatment.
At week 12, 32 participants met criteria for 14-day point-prevalence abstinence. Patients with lower baseline symptoms of affective flattening (more typical affect) were more likely to achieve smoking abstinence and demonstrated larger increases in reward sensitivity during treatment.
These data suggest that affective flattening symptoms in smokers with schizophrenia may predict response to varenicline.
Department of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.
This article was published in the following journal.
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Discontinuation of the habit of smoking, the inhaling and exhaling of tobacco smoke.
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Cessation of the habit of using tobacco products for smoking or chewing, including the use of snuff.
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An alkaloid that has actions similar to NICOTINE on nicotinic cholinergic receptors but is less potent. It has been proposed for a variety of therapeutic uses including in respiratory disorders, peripheral vascular disorders, insomnia, and smoking cessation.
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