Lapse-induced Surges in Craving Influence Relapse in Adult Smokers
An Experimental Investigation
Published in: Health Psychology, v. 30, no. 5, Sep. 2011. p. 588-596
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2010
OBJECTIVES: Nearly all smokers who lapse experience a full-blown relapse, but the mediating mechanisms that contribute to this relationship are not well understood. A better understanding of these mechanisms would help to advance more effective relapse prevention treatments for smokers. The purpose of this study is to experimentally evaluate the effects of a programmed smoking lapse on smoking relapse and the effects of postlapse changes in craving on relapse. METHOD: Adult smokers (n = 63) who quit smoking with a brief cognitive–behavioral intervention and self-help materials were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions after 48 h of abstinence: No lapse (a no-smoking control/30-min waiting period) or lapse (smoking two cigarettes of their favored brand during a 30-min period). All participants were then followed daily for 14 days. Craving and biochemically verified self-reported abstinence were assessed on each follow-up day. Time (days) to relapse (7 consecutive days of smoking) was the main dependent measure. RESULTS: Results of Cox regression analysis revealed that participants in the lapse condition relapsed more quickly than participants in the no-lapse condition (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.12, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [1.03, 4.35]). These effects were attributable, in part, to episodic increases in craving among participants in the lapse condition only (HR = 12.42, 95% CI =[2.00, 77.1]). CONCLUSIONS: Previously abstinent smokers who lapse are at risk for increased cigarette cravings and consequently, full-blown relapse. These results have implications for both cognitive–behavioral treatments for relapse prevention and for medications designed to help smokers manage cravings.