Responding to tobacco craving: experimental test of acceptance versus suppression

Psychol Addict Behav. 2012 Dec;26(4):830-7. doi: 10.1037/a0030351. Epub 2012 Oct 29.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) provides a theoretical rationale for "acceptance" of thoughts and feelings, and proscribes suppression, a more intuitive and commonly used coping strategy. Suppression is theorized to have negative consequences not applicable to acceptance, including depletion in self-control and ironic postsuppression rebound effects. However, it remains largely unknown whether these strategies differentially affect frequency of drug-related thoughts, craving intensity, drug use behavior, or other relevant outcomes. Adult smokers (N = 162) were randomly assigned to receive a brief laboratory-based coping intervention (acceptance or suppression) or were not given coping instructions (control group) and then were exposed to smoking cues. Results indicated that the suppression group was successful at suppressing thoughts of smoking, as they reported fewer thoughts of smoking than the other two groups. Also, both coping strategies were associated with benefits with respect to craving and affect. However, there were no group differences in depletion, and rebound effects did not occur when coping was discontinued. Following the laboratory session, all participants attempted to quit or at least reduce their smoking for 3 days; the acceptance and suppression groups resumed use of their strategy. At 3-day follow-up, the acceptance and suppression groups reported greater self-efficacy for avoiding smoking when experiencing craving compared to the control group. However, there were no group differences in the number of cigarettes smoked during the 3 days. This study provides support for the value of acceptance-based coping, but it also suggests that more research is needed to differentiate its benefits compared to suppression.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Behavior, Addictive / therapy*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Thinking
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome