Identification and Treatment of Patients with Nicotine Problems in Routine Clinical Psychiatry Practice

Published in: American Journal on Addictions, v. 14, no. 5, Oct.-Dec. 2005, p. 441-454

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2005

by Ivan D. Montoya, Diane M. Herbeck, Dace S. Svikis, Harold Alan Pincus

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The aim of this study is to assess the rates of nicotine problems diagnosed by psychiatrists, the characteristics of psychiatric patients who smoke, and the services provided to them in routine psychiatric practice. Data were obtained by asking psychiatrists participating in the American Psychiatric Institute for Psychiatric Research and Education's Practice Research Network to complete a self-administered questionnaire to provide detailed sociodemographic, clinical, and health plan information on three of their patients seen during routine clinical practice. A total of 615 psychiatrists provided information on 1,843 patients, of which 280 (16.6%) were reported to have a current nicotine problem. Of these, 9.1% were reported to receive treatment for nicotine dependence. Patients with nicotine problems were significantly more likely to be males, divorced or separated, disabled, and uninsured, and have fewer years of education. They also had significantly more co-morbid psychiatric disorders, particularly schizophrenia or alcohol/substance use disorders; a lower Global Assessment Functioning score; and poorer treatment compliance than their counterparts. The results suggest a very low rate of identification and treatment of nicotine problems among patients treated by psychiatrists, even though psychiatric patients who smoke seem to have more clinical and psychosocial stressors and more severe psychiatric problems than those who do not smoke. Programs should be developed to raise the awareness and ability of psychiatrists to diagnose and treat patients with nicotine problems, with a particular emphasis on the increased medical and psychosocial needs of psychiatric patients who smoke.

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