People with schizophrenia smoke. A lot. And it's really hard to quit.
Well, at least we now know why. A team of researchers out of the University of Maryland School of Medicine studied 100 smokers with schizophrenia and 100 mentally healthy smokers aged between 18 and 65 years. The two groups had no significant differences in levels of nicotine dependence, number of cigarettes smoked per day, expired breath carbon monoxide or age at smoking initiation.
What they did find was a significant different in tobacco craving that occured 10 to 15 minutes after smoking a cigarette. Breaking down the subject of craving, the people with schizophrenia had higher scores in emotionality (anticipation of relief from negative mood or withdrawal symptoms), compulsivity (lack of control over tobacco use) and purposefulness (intention and planning to smoke for positive outcomes).
The report of the study in Schizophrenia Research said the scientists hope the study will help doctors to figure out how to prevent and treat cigarette smoking among people with schizophrenia.
This is important because 80 percent of people with schizophrenia smoke, according to The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia by Kim Mueser and Susan Gingerich. They suggest foregoing the cold turkey approach, and having your loved one keep track of how many cigarettes they smoke a day, trying to gradually reduce it. This is less stressful, and, of course, stress makes the symptoms worsen.
Since people with schizophrenia have lifespans that are about 25 years shorter than average people, it would seem smart to find a way to help them stop. But this also helps me, at least, decide that, in a world where you have to choose your battles everyday, this moves further down the list.