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New Research to Help People with Mental Disorders Quit Smoking

Science Update

A new grant funded by NIMH will develop an intervention designed to help people with serious mental illness (SMI) quit smoking. The addiction is very common among people with SMI, and contributes significantly to deteriorating health and higher costs for care. But it is difficult to treat among people with SMI because they require a tailored approach that is incorporated into their existing mental health treatment.

Melanie Bennett, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, will develop a smoking cessation treatment designed for use among people with SMI who are attending psychiatric rehabilitation programs. Such programs, which are focused on helping people with SMI improve their long-term health and overall recovery, are an ideal setting for this type of research because the people who attend them usually have stabilized their illness with treatment, and attend the program several times a week, according to Bennett.

The intervention will include group sessions with trained therapists to motivate participants and teach them coping skills, provide education about the negative health effects of smoking, and help prevent relapse. Some participants may also receive bupropion—an antidepressant that is also used to help smokers quit—or a nicotine replacement therapy that is integrated into their existing psychiatric treatments. The program will be pilot-tested in a small randomized trial. Bennett will measure the program’s effects at the end of the treatment and three months later, to determine the rates at which participants were able to quit smoking, the number of times they attempted to quit, and rates at which smoking was reduced.