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Modeling naturalistic craving, withdrawal, and affect during early nicotine abstinence: A pilot ecological momentary assessment study.


Despite the critical role of withdrawal, craving, and positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) in smoking relapse, relatively little is known about the temporal and predictive relationship between these constructs within the first day of abstinence. This pilot study aims to characterize dynamic changes in withdrawal, craving, and affect over the course of early abstinence using ecological momentary assessment. Beginning immediately after smoking, moderate and heavy smoking participants (n = 15 per group) responded to hourly surveys assessing craving, withdrawal, NA, and PA. Univariate and multivariate multilevel random coefficient modeling was used to describe the progression of craving, withdrawal/NA, and PA and to test correlations between these constructs at the subject level over the course of early abstinence. Heavy smokers reported greater craving from 1-4 hr of abstinence and greater withdrawal/NA after 3 or more hours as compared with moderate smokers. Level of withdrawal/NA was strongly positively associated with craving, and PA was negatively correlated with craving; however, the temporal dynamics of these correlations differed substantially. The association between withdrawal/NA and craving decreased over early abstinence, whereas the reverse was observed for PA. These findings can inform experimental studies of nicotine abstinence as well as their clinical applications to smoking cessation efforts. In particular, these results help to elucidate the role of PA in nicotine abstinence by demonstrating its independent association with nicotine craving over and above withdrawal/NA. If supported by future studies, these findings can refine experimental methods and clinical approaches for smoking cessation.

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