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Neuropsychopharmacology. 1999 Aug;21(2):195-202.

Nicotine withdrawal and psychiatric symptoms in cigarette smokers with schizophrenia.

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Ann Arbor VA Medical Center, University of Michigan, USA.


The prevalence of smoking is markedly elevated in schizophrenia. Low smoking cessation rates and reports that some smokers with schizophrenia experience an acute increase in symptoms during attempts to quit smoking, suggest a self-medication model. Alternatively, smoking may modulate medication side effects. The effects of treated and untreated smoking abstinence on psychotic symptoms and medication side effects were examined in this study. Nineteen outpatients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder participated in a randomized, double-blind, balanced crossover study: 1 day of ad libitum smoking followed by 3 days of acute smoking abstinence while wearing 22 mg/day active or placebo transdermal nicotine patches, with a return to 3 days of smoking between patch conditions. Daily symptom and side-effect ratings, nicotine and cotinine blood levels were collected. Twelve subjects completed the study. Neither positive symptoms nor mood symptoms changed. An increase in negative symptoms during the first abstinent day occurred in both placebo and active patch conditions, but was not sustained over subsequent abstinent days. Despite physiological signs of withdrawal, completers did not endorse increased nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Dropouts reported higher withdrawal symptoms, but also had no increase in psychiatric symptoms in either phase of the study. Of note, dyskinesias decreased during abstinence and placebo patch treatment, but increased during abstinence and the active patch conditions. Acute exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms is an unlikely explanation for any difficulty smokers with schizophrenia have in early abstinence.

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