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A retrospective cohort study of the prevalence of anxiety and agitation in schizophrenic smokers and the unmet needs of smoking cessation programs.

Abstract

Achieving abstinence in schizophrenic smokers using a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy is feasible; however, abstinence rates are significantly lower compared to the general population and studies are scanty. Additionally, maintaining sustained abstinence and preventing relapse is a major limiting factor and represents key tasks in managing tobacco dependence in schizophrenic patients. Several theories have been postulated to explain the higher tendency of tobacco use among schizophrenic individuals. Schizophrenic patients may use nicotine as a "self-medication" strategy to improve negative symptoms of schizophrenia. However, studies suggest that although nicotine may act as an anxiolytic acutely, chronic use of nicotine may lead to increased anxiety with the possibility of increased catecholamines, which is confirmed with the prevalence of tachycardia and hypertension in smokers in general. On this basis, the main objective of our present study was to assess anxiety in schizophrenic smoking and nonsmoking patients by comparing the number of anxiety and agitation episodes and evaluating the amount of antianxiety/antiagitation medication used by each group. A separate objective was to document the unmet needs of smoking cessation programs in treating schizophrenic patients. Consequently, in the present retrospective cohort study, it was observed that schizophrenic smokers tend to have higher anxiety episodes and utilize as-needed medications at a higher frequency compared to nonsmokers for the relief of anxiety and agitation symptoms. Further research is warranted to examine these results on a larger scale.

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