South Kingstown, RI – August 21, 2013. HealthDay News recently reported the results of a new study from the American Journal of Public Health (http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301403). The study showed that psychiatric patients who participated in Pro-Change Behavior System’s individually tailored smoking cessation program while they were hospitalized for treatment of a mental illness were more likely to quit smoking and less likely to be re-hospitalized.
The findings challenge a common misperception among mental health experts that smoking is a useful tool in treating psychiatric patients. The study’s lead author, Judith J. Prochaska, PhD, an associate professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, reported that cigarettes are still used as part of a reward system on some units and that doctors may sometimes smoke with patients as a way of creating a connection.
The study conducted by Prochaska and her colleagues included 224 inpatients at a smoke-free psychiatric hospital in California who smoked at least five cigarettes a day prior to being admitted to the hospital. The patients had a range of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Three-quarters were suicidal. The patients were randomized into two groups. Patients randomized to the treatment group participated in Pro-Change’s Smoking Cessation program. Those randomized to the control group received usual care–which included a pamphlet about the hazards of smoking and information on how to quit.
The Pro-Change Smoking Cessation program included a computer-tailored intervention with individualized feedback and a stage-matched print manual. Patients in the treatment group also met for 15 to 30 minutes with a counselor and were offered a 10-week supply of nicotine patches when they were ready to quit smoking. The computer-tailored intervention was repeated at 3- and 6-months post-hospitalization to provide ongoing behavior change guidance through the quitting process. Patient’s outpatient providers received a copy of the patient’s report.
At the 18 month follow-up, 20% of those in the treatment group had quit smoking, compared to just 7.7% of those in the control group. Furthermore, fewer patients (44%) in the treatment group had been re-hospitalized (44% vs. 56%). The findings indicated that helping patients quit smoking did not harm their mental health recovery and may have even improved it, Prochaska said. “I think some of the therapeutic contact that addressed participants’ tobacco dependence, and supported them with this major health goal, may have generalized to them feeling better about their mental health condition,” Prochaska said in a Stanford news release.
Sara Johnson, PhD, Senior Vice President of Research and Product Development at Pro-Change Behavior Systems said, “Given that almost half of the cigarettes in the United States are sold to those with psychiatric or addictive disorders, we commend Dr. Prochaska and her colleagues for their ongoing efforts to make our population-based tailored Smoking Cessation program available to inpatients with mental illness and to rigorously evaluate its impact in this historically under-served group.”