Investigating tobacco withdrawal in response to reduced nicotine cigarettes among smokers with opioid use disorder and other vulnerabilities.

Joanna M. Streck, Stacey C. Sigmon, Jeffrey Priest, Cecilia L. Bergeria, Danielle R. Davis, John R. Hughes, Andrea C. Villanti, Jennifer W. Tidey, Sarah H. Heil, Diann E. Gaalema, Maxine L. Stitzer, Stephen T. Higgins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) have high prevalence of smoking and poor cessation outcomes. Data suggest that smokers with OUD may experience heightened nicotine reinforcement and more severe tobacco withdrawal compared to smokers without OUD. The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes to reduce smoking prevalence and smoking-related disease. It is critical to understand the effects of reduced nicotine content cigarettes (RNCCs) on tobacco withdrawal in this subgroup. In this secondary analysis, we investigated the ability of RNCCs to attenuate acute tobacco withdrawal and craving severity in smokers with OUD versus those without substance use disorders (SUDs). Smokers maintained on methadone or buprenorphine (opioid-maintained [OM]; n = 65) versus without other SUDs (i.e., non-SUD; n = 135) completed 5 laboratory sessions wherein they smoked their usual brand (UB) or a research cigarette varying in nicotine content (0.4, 2.4, 5.2, 15.8 mg/g of tobacco) under double-blind, acute abstinence conditions. Participants completed the Minnesota Tobacco Withdrawal Scale, including a desire to smoke (craving) item, before and every 15 min for 1 hr following smoking each cigarette. Tobacco withdrawal and craving did not differ significantly by OM status in response to UB or RNCCs. In addition to the Dose × Time interaction, greater depression and cigarette dependence consistently predicted withdrawal and craving (ps < .05). Across all cigarettes, tobacco withdrawal and craving did not significantly differ by OM status, suggesting that smokers receiving opioid agonist treatment may respond favorably to RNCCs. Additional studies with larger and more diverse samples are needed to address this question more definitively. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved) Public Health Significance—Being maintained on opioid agonist treatment for opioid use disorder did not influence self-reported ratings of tobacco withdrawal or desire to smoke (craving) in response to usual brand or reduced nicotine content cigarettes. Opioid-maintained smokers may respond favorably to a national nicotine reduction policy for reducing smoking-related consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)714-723
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • buprenorphine
  • methadone
  • opioid use disorder
  • reduced nicotine content cigarettes
  • tobacco withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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