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J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013 Oct;33(5):667-74. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e31829a829d.

Escalating doses of transdermal nicotine in heavy smokers: effects on smoking behavior and craving.

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Nicotine Dependence Clinic, Addictions Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Fixed-dose nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is efficacious for smoking cessation in the general population of smokers. However, it is less effective in populations with psychiatric comorbidities and/or severe tobacco dependence where the percent nicotine replacement is suboptimal. The objective of this pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of nicotine patch dose titration in response to continued smoking in heavily dependent smokers with psychiatric comorbidity. In a single-arm, open-label study adult smokers (mean cigarettes per day, 25.4 ± 13.4; range, 14-43; n = 12) willing to quit were treated with escalating doses of transdermal nicotine and brief counseling intervention if they continued to smoke over a 9-week treatment period. Plasma nicotine and cotinine, along with expired carbon monoxide levels, and the subjective effects of smoking, urge to smoke, demand elasticity, and mood symptoms were also assessed. The mean NRT dose was 32.7 (SD, 16.4) mg/d (range, 7-56 mg/d). Smokers reported significant reductions in both cigarettes per day (mean decrease, 18.4 ± 11.5) confirmed by expired carbon monoxide (mean decrease, 13.5 ± 13.0) with no significant changes in plasma nicotine concentrations during the course of NRT dose titration. There were significant effects on the subjective effects of smoking and measures of smoking behavior. Most commonly reported adverse events were respiratory infections, skin irritation at patch site, nausea, and sleep disturbances, which were generally mild and transient. Titrating doses of NRT to effect with brief intervention hold promise as an effective clinical strategy to assist heavily dependent psychiatrically ill smokers to change their smoking behavior.


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