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Nicotine Tob Res. 2006 Feb;8(1):89-101.

Precessation treatment with nicotine skin patch facilitates smoking cessation.

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Nicotine Research Program, VA Medical Center and Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27705, USA.


Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a well-established treatment to aid smoking cessation, and current products recommend using NRT only after quitting smoking. However, theoretical arguments and previous data support the hypothesis that precessation use of NRT might be useful in reducing dependence on inhaled nicotine and serve as a helpful prelude to smoking cessation. The present study explored the use of NRT for 2 weeks before a target quit-smoking date, during which subjects continued to smoke ad libitum. Three experimental conditions varied the nicotine delivery of the cigarettes smoked during these 2 weeks so that we could examine the effects of concurrent nicotine administration on compensatory smoking of low tar and nicotine cigarettes. Subjects smoked (a) their usual brands of cigarettes, (b) conventional low tar and nicotine cigarettes, or (c) denicotinized cigarettes. After the quit date, subjects received pharmacotherapy consisting of various doses of NRT (0, 21, or 42 mg/24-hr) in combination with the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine (10 mg/day). Results showed that precessation nicotine patch treatment was associated with a significantly higher rate of continuous smoking abstinence at 4 weeks, regardless of cigarette condition. Ad libitum smoking before the target quit date was modulated by nicotine patch treatment, and compensatory increases in smoking low tar and nicotine cigarettes were prevented by concurrent use of nicotine patches. These results suggest that use of NRT before a target quit-smoking date deserves further evaluation as a possible smoking cessation treatment. Moreover, while nicotine patches were well tolerated when subjects smoked nicotine-containing cigarettes, the use of nicotine skin patches with reduced-nicotine cigarettes potentially offers the advantage of increased efficacy without introducing concern about toxic effects of excessive nicotine intake.

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