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 January 01, 2011

by William G. Shadel, Steven C. Martino, Claude Messan Setodji, Daniel Cervone, Katie Witkiewitz, Ellen Burke Beckjord, Deborah M. Scharf, Regina A. Shih

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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.

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