Background: Although patients with chronic schizophrenia have substantially higher smoking rates than either the general population or patients with other mental illnesses, drug-naive patients with a first episode of schizophrenia have received little systemic study. This study examined smoking rates, the association between smoking and symptom severity and cognitive function in Chinese first-episode schizophrenia (FES) patients using cross-sectional and case-control designs.
Method: Two hundred and forty-four drug-naive FES patients and 256 healthy controls matched for gender, age and education completed the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND) and the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). Patients were also rated on the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale (PANSS).
Results: The rate and quantity of smoking were not significantly higher among FES patients compared to the general population. Among patients, smokers scored higher than non-smokers on the total PANSS and the positive symptom subscale scores. There were no significant associations between cognitive function and smoking in either FES patients or healthy controls.
Conclusions: In contrast to studies in patients with chronic schizophrenia, drug-naive FES patients did not smoke more frequently than the general population. Furthermore, patients with psychotic disorders who smoked did not exhibit significant cognitive differences compared with those who did not smoke. However, smoking may have other detrimental effects on physical and mental health, for example on positive symptoms.