Reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels may help smokers with mood or anxiety disorders quit smoking without harm, according to researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and Harvard Medical School. to their mental health.
The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
They claimed that reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes could minimize addiction, reduce exposure to toxins and improve smokers’ chances of quitting.
In the United States, tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of early death and disease. The United States Food and Drug Administration and the New Zealand government have recently developed plans to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to levels that are not highly addictive.
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Previous studies suggest that reducing nicotine levels could help smokers quit, but there is little evidence that these regulations would be harmful for those who already suffer from affective disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders, which affect approximately 38% of smokers in the United States. States.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Jonathan Foulds says smokers with mental health issues are more likely to have severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms and have less success quitting smoking. He added that there are concerns that reducing the amount of nicotine to extremely low levels could exacerbate the psychiatric symptoms of mentally ill smokers, encourage more tobacco use and expose them to more toxic substances ( hazardous substances).
The study included 188 smokers who had no intention of quitting and who had a history of or currently suffered from a mood or anxiety state. The volunteers were randomly divided into two groups and received either study cigarettes with the standard nicotine strength (11.6 mg/cigarette) or cigarettes with nicotine that was gradually reduced over an additional 18 weeks. until it is only 0.2 mg/cigarette.
The researchers assessed levels of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, levels of dangerous chemicals, indices of cigarette addiction and various indicators of mental health at the start and end of the trial.
At the end of the study, the researchers found no statistically significant difference in mental health parameters between the two groups. The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale was used by the researchers; it consisted of six self-report items where participants rated how “nervous”, “desperate”, or “so miserable that nothing could cheer them up” they felt. The points for each of the six experiments are added together to obtain scores.
Unlike participants in the standard nicotine group, who scored an average of 6.1 at the start of the trial and finished around 4.9, individuals in the reduced nicotine group scored an average of 5 .3 at the start of the study and finished with an average score of 4.6.
“These results are important because we want to understand the effect these policies would have on smokers with anxiety or depressive disorders,” said Foulds, a researcher at the Penn State Cancer Institute. “Our data showed that there was no significant difference in mental health measures between the groups, suggesting that reduced nicotine cigarettes may not have adverse psychological effects in this population. “
Foulds and his team found that the groups in the reduced nicotine group took less nicotine and ate less dangerous carcinogens such as the biomarker 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol), also known as NNAL. This result is consistent with previous studies. At the end of the randomized phase of the trial, members of this group had also reduced their cigarette consumption and reported less dependence on nicotine.
Unique to this study, participants in both groups were also given the choice to “choose their treatment” after the 18-week period. They could go back to using their own cigarettes, continue to smoke the research cigarettes, or try to quit. Of the 188 study participants, those randomized to receive low-nicotine cigarettes were more likely to have quit 12 weeks later (18.1%), compared to those in the control group (usual nicotine content). nicotine) (4.3%).
“We believe this is the first randomized trial to find that smokers who used very low nicotine cigarettes were significantly more likely to have quit smoking (with biochemical verification), three months after quitting. the trial,” Foulds said.
“Our results suggest that these policies are likely to lead to reduced nicotine intake from cigarettes without worsening the mental health of smokers with mood or anxiety disorders,” said Dr. Eden Evins, professor of psychiatry at the Cox family at Harvard Medical School. “They also suggest that with appropriate support and resources, smokers with mood and anxiety disorders may be successful in quitting through these policies.”
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