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article imageWhy smokers struggle to quit

By Tim Sandle     Nov 13, 2014 in Health
Researchers have identified some of the main reasons why many cigarette smokers struggle to kick the nicotine habit. It is all to do with the "feeling" of happiness.
The findings stem from research conducted at the University of Wisconsin researchers, who have been looking into the nature of addiction. The researchers have discovered that during the period immediately following quitting, many smokers suffer from a condition called “anhedonia.” This is defined in psychology as a strong inability to experience pleasure during life activities. Basically, feeling unhappy and associating being happy with the nicotine kick.
Anhedonia is also a characteristic of mental disorders including mood disorders, schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizophrenia.
The research infers that anhedonia is a symptom of nicotine withdrawal (nicotine exerts powerful effects on the brain’s pleasure centers.) It also partly explains why smokers who want to break their addiction to tobacco struggle to do so. This effect is strongest during the first week after quitting smoking. In the first week the anhedonia effect rises before falling back to baseline levels.
Furthermore, the experimental findings suggests that anhedonia might lead people back to smoking. This is so that people think that they can again experience pleasure during enjoyable life events. The findings imply that medications designed to counteract the effects of anhedonia will be useful to many people.
The outcome was based on data from the Wisconsin Smokers’ Health Study, administered by researchers at the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI), and funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH. With the study, some 1,175 smokers who were trying to quit took part. Each smoker was given a personal digital assistant, which prompted questions four times a day for up to two weeks prior to and two weeks after their target quit date.
The research findings indicated that there was a significant quit-day increase in anhedonia among those who received placebo, while this effect was nearly fully mitigated among those who received active medication.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The paper is titled “Anhedonia as a Component of the Tobacco Withdrawal Syndrome.”
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