Mobile technology helps explore nicotine addiction

April 4, 2012, Pennsylvania State University

(Medical Xpress) -- Some people quit smoking on the first try while others have to quit repeatedly. Using such mobile technology as hand-held computers and smartphones, a team of researchers from Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh is trying to find out why.

"One thing that really stood out among the relapsers is how their urge to smoke just never dropped, in contrast to those who were successful in quitting for a month -- their urge dropped quickly and systematically -- almost immediately uponquitting," said Stephanie Lanza, scientific director of The Methodology Center at Penn State. "That was surprising to see."

With a new to interpret data and the ability to collect data via mobile devices, the researchers looked at how baseline and negative emotional states influenced people's urge to smoke while they weretrying to quit.

The Centers for Disease Control found in a 2010 National of 27,157 adults that about 52 percent of cigarette smokers tried to quit during the year. Six percent of all smokers -- who had been smoking for two years or more -- quit for at least six months. Also in 2010, the reported that even though cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., nearly one in five Americans smokes.

The team found that those who successfully quit during the four-week study period had a weaker association between their urge to smoke and their ability to quit. However, those who were unable to abstain did not show any association between their urge to smoke and their self-confidence.

Saul Shiffman, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, followed 304 long-term as they tried to quit. On average, the participants smoked more than a pack a day for 23 years. Forty participants quit smoking for the initial 24 hours, but subsequently relapsed. During the two weeks afterquitting, 207 participants remained relatively tobacco-free. If smokers relapsed but smoked less than five cigarettes per day, they were consideredsuccessful quitters in this study. The remaining 57 participants were unable to quit for even 24 hours.

Five times randomly throughout the day, mobile devices prompted participants to answer questions. These questions asked the smokers about their emotional state, their urge to smoke and if they were smoking. They rated their urge to smoke at that moment on a scale of zero to 10. Using this data collection method, the researchers collected data from subjects in their natural environments.

Researchers followed subjects for two weeks prior to their attempt to quit, and for four weeks after their attempt to quit, the researchers report online in Prevention Science.

The Penn State team used a flexible statistical model -- a time-varying effect model -- that allows the researchers to look at more than one variable at atime. This model is a decade old, but until now was not user-friendly. The Methodology Center created accessible software (methodology.psu.edu/downloads/tvem) to analyze data that vary over time.

"To me, the biggest innovation here is looking at how something like baseline dependence is predictive of that behavior over time or (specifically) the urge to smoke over time," said Lanza. "It's now expressed as a function of time. Instead of saying 'if you're higher on dependence you're going to have a higher urge to smoke over time,' you can now depict how that association between baseline dependence and urge to smoke varies with time in a very fluid and naturalistic way."

One advantages of this model is that researchers are not confined to changes in one dimension. Researchers can look at time in a smooth way, viewing it as a gradual and constant variable and simultaneously view two or more variablesthat can change over time, such as urges and negative affect. Lanzanoted that this method could be used to look at addiction and behavior in many other areas, such as obesity, alcohol dependence, stress and more.

"Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with tobacco (and other) researchers, to help them understand these really intricate processes that are happening," said Lanza. "We want to really understand addiction and how to break addiction, so that interventions can be targeted and adaptable."

Also working on this research were Mariya P. Shiyko and Xianming Tan, both formerly research associates at The Methodology Center, now assistant professor of counseling and applied educational psychology at Northeastern University and biostatistical consultant at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, respectively; and Runze Li, professor of statistics at Penn State.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse supported both aspects of this research.

Explore further: Fake cigarettes increase success rate for quitting smoking

Related Stories

Fake cigarettes increase success rate for quitting smoking

May 12, 2011
Nicotine-free plastic inhalers may increase a smoker's chance of quitting, according to new research published online in the European Respiratory Journal.

Self-identified social smokers less likely to try to quit

June 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Self-identified social smokers are less likely to try to quit and to avoid smoking for more than a month, according to a national study in the American Journal of Public Health conducted by professors ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.