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Introduction: Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is effective for smoking cessation, but the optimal method of using NRT to maximize benefit is unclear. We examined whether nicotine dependence was associated with consumption of NRT, whether this was mediated by withdrawal symptoms, and the impact of these factors on cessation, in a population advised to use as much NRT as needed. Methods: Secondary analysis of data from an open label, parallel group randomized controlled trial. Participants (n = 539) attended a smoking cessation clinic in primary care and remained engaged with treatment for at least one week following a quit attempt. Baseline dependence was measured by the Fagerström Test for Cigarette Dependence (FTCD), with tobacco exposure assessed via an exhaled carbon monoxide test. At one week after quit day, mean daily consumption of NRT was measured for all participants; withdrawal (Mood and Physical Symptoms Scale (MPSS)) was also assessed in the subsample who reported being completely abstinent to that point (n = 279). Abstinence was biochemically assessed at four weeks for all participants as the principal smoking cessation outcome. Results: Each point higher on the FTCD was associated with 0.83 mg/day more NRT consumption, controlling for tobacco exposure. This relationship was diminished when withdrawal was controlled for, and withdrawal was associated with NRT consumption, with each point higher on the MPSS associated with a 0.12 mg/day increase. Increased consumption of NRT directly predicted subsequent smoking cessation. Conclusions: Higher dependence appears to lead to greater withdrawal, which appears to drive greater use of NRT. This effect may partly offset lower abstinence rates in people with higher dependence. Advice to use sufficient NRT to suppress withdrawal may increase abstinence rates.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment

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