Medications Work for Severely Addicted Smokers

Implications for Addiction Therapists and Primary Care Physicians

Previous research has demonstrated that individuals who are severely addicted to cigarettes may have more difficulty quitting, higher rates of relapse and greater risk of smoking-related diseases than lighter smokers. The effectiveness of current tobacco dependence treatment for severe addiction is less well-known. This paper comments on findings from Saul Shiffman, Ph.D., and colleagues on the efficacy of medicinal nicotine therapy. Data from two placebo-controlled studies were reanalyzed to assess the impact of nicotine patch and lozenge therapy comparing very heavy or highly-dependent smokers with lighter or less-dependent smokers. Study participants also received intensive behavioral therapy. Results may have broader application to other forms of addiction and addiction treatment.

Key Findings:

  • At six months, 28.4 percent of very heavy smokers who were using the nicotine patch maintained abstinence as compared with 8.1 percent of very heavy smokers in the placebo group.
  • Twenty-two percent of very heavy smokers who were using the nicotine lozenge maintained abstinence at six months as compared with 6.3 percent of participants treated with placebo lozenges.