Tobacco Withdrawal Among Opioid-Dependent Smokers

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Prevalence of cigarette smoking among opioid-dependent individuals is 6-fold that of the general U.S. adult population and their quit rates are notoriously poor. One possible reason for the modest cessation outcomes in opioid-dependent smokers may be that they experience more severe tobacco withdrawal upon quitting. In this secondary analysis, we evaluated tobacco withdrawal in opioid-dependent (OD) smokers versus smokers without co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs). Participants were 47 methadone- or buprenorphine-maintained smokers and 25 non-SUD smokers who completed 1 of several 2-week studies involving daily visits for biochemical monitoring, delivery of financial incentives contingent on smoking abstinence, and assessment of withdrawal via the Minnesota Nicotine Withdrawal Scale (MNWS). Prior to quitting smoking, OD smokers presented with higher baseline withdrawal scores than non-SUD smokers (1.7 ± 0.2 vs. 0.7 ± 0.2, respectively; F[1, 63] = 7.31, p < .001). Withdrawal scores in both groups decreased over the subsequent 2-week period with no group differences, F(1, 910) = 0.50, p = .48. A similar pattern was observed on craving (i.e., Desire to Smoke item of MNWS), although the trajectory of decrease over time on this item was also moderated by gender. Overall, there was no difference in withdrawal during biochemically verified smoking abstinence between OD and non-SUD smokers, suggesting that elevated withdrawal severity following quitting may not be a major factor contributing to the poor cessation outcomes consistently observed among OD smokers. Further scientific efforts are needed to improve our understanding of the high smoking rates and modest cessation outcomes in this challenging population.

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