Tobacco withdrawal components and their relations with cessation success

Megan E. Piper, Tanya R. Schlam, Jessica W. Cook, Megan A. Sheffer, Stevens S. Smith, Wei Yin Loh, Daniel M. Bolt, Su Young Kim, Jesse T. Kaye, Kathryn R. Hefner, Timothy B. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Rationale: Tobacco withdrawal is a key factor in smoking relapse, but important questions about the withdrawal phenomenon remain. Objectives: This research was intended to provide information about two core components of withdrawal (negative affect and craving): (1) how various withdrawal symptom profile dimensions (e.g., mean level, volatility, extreme values) differ between negative affect and craving; and (2) how these dimensions relate to cessation outcome. Methods: Adult smokers (N=1,504) in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled smoking cessation trial provided real-time withdrawal symptom data four times per day for 4 weeks (2 weeks pre-quit and 2 weeks post-quit) via palmtop computers. Cessation outcome was biochemically confirmed 8-week point-prevalence abstinence. Results: Examination of craving and negative affect dimensions following a cessation attempt revealed that craving symptoms differed from negative affect symptoms, with higher means, greater variability, and a greater incidence of extreme peaks. Regression analyses revealed that abstinence was associated with lower mean levels of both craving and negative affect and fewer incidences of extreme craving peaks. In a multivariate model, the increase in mean craving and negative affect scores each uniquely predicted relapse. Conclusions: Real-time reports revealed different patterns of abstinence-related negative affect and craving and that dimensions of both predict cessation outcome, suggesting that negative affect and craving dimensions each has motivational significance. This underscores the complexity of withdrawal as a determinant of relapse and the need to measure its distinct components and dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-578
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Craving
  • Negative affect
  • Nicotine
  • Smoking cessation
  • Tobacco
  • Withdrawal


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