Participants were advised to continue to smoke as they desired throughout the pre-quit period, and were offered additional oral nicotine replacement therapies.
The team found that:
- Of the 50 participants, 90 per cent progressed to at least three patches, while 72 per cent progressed to four patches.
- 82 per cent of participants achieved four weeks validated abstinence from smoking, and experienced no significant increase in withdrawal symptoms, including urges to smoke.
- Cigarette consumption, smoke intake and enjoyment of smoking declined significantly during the pre-quit period, and the intervention was rated as helpful and easy to adhere to.
- During the pre-quit period, the number of cigarettes smoked per day reduced significantly from 20/day at the start to 6/day by the quit date.
- The number of adverse effects increased as patch dose increased. The most common of these were nausea, followed by vomiting, but were mainly mild and well tolerated.
- Two participants rated their adverse effects as ‘severe’, both at the 63mg dose. One reported headaches, nausea and feeling faint; the other experienced nausea and blurry vision. Both reduced their dose back to 42mg/day.
- Only 6 per cent of participants dropped out of treatment and none dropped out because of patch side effects.
“Our results also suggests that one of the reasons e-cigarettes are so much more popular and potentially more effective than other nicotine replacement treatments is that smokers can adjust their nicotine intake according to their needs.” It is thought that ‘pre-loading’ with nicotine leading up to the quit date might help weaken the conditioned link between smoking behaviour and reward, and reduce enjoyment of smoking. Also, if pre-loading nicotine levels are high enough, additional nicotine intake from cigarettes should cause nausea and become aversive. The next step is to carry out a larger randomised trial to verify that the increased dosing, and especially its use prior to quitting, increases treatment efficacy.
The current study is limited in that it did not include a placebo control, so the abstinence data are only indicative. The reported reduction in enjoyment of smoking may also have been influenced by expectations. Additionally, with a sample size of 50, rare adverse reactions cannot be excluded.
The study was funded by the Global Research Awards for Nicotine Dependence.