Background: Cigarette smoking is a tough addiction to break. This dependence is the most common dual diagnosis for individuals with schizophrenia. Currently three effective drugs are approved for smoking cessation: nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), varenicline and bupropion. However, some serious side effects of varenicline have been reported, including depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. The use of bupropion also has side effects. It should not be used by people who have epilepsy or any condition that lowers the seizure threshold, nor by people who take a specific class of drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Hence, there are pharmacodynamic reason to believe they could precipitate or exacerbate psychosis. For its capacity to deliver nicotine and provide a coping mechanism for conditioned smoking cues by replacing some of the rituals associated with smoking gestures, electronic-cigarettes may reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms without serious side effects. Our recent work with ECs in healthy smokers not intending to quit consistently show surprisingly high success rates. We hypothesised that these positive findings could be replicated in difficult patients with schizophrenia This tool may help smokers with schizophrenia remain abstinent during their quitting attempts or to reduce cigarette consumption. Efficacy and safety of these devices in long-term smoking cessation and/or smoking reduction studies have never been investigated for this special population.
Methods: In this study we monitored possible modifications in smoking habits of 14 smokers (not intending to quit) with schizophrenia experimenting with the "Categoria" e-Cigarette with a focus on smoking reduction and smoking abstinence. Study participants were invited to attend six study visits: at baseline, week-4, week-8, week-12 week-24 and week 52. Product use, number of cigarettes smoked, carbon monoxide in exhaled breath (eCO) and positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia levels were measured at each visit. Smoking reduction and abstinence rates were calculated. Adverse events were also reviewed.
Results: Sustained 50% reduction in the number of cig/day at week-52 was shown in 7/14 (50%) participants; their median of 30 cig/day decreasing significantly to 15 cig/day (p = 0.018). Sustained smoking abstinence at week-52 was observed in 2/14 (14.3%) participants. Combined sustained 50% reduction and smoking abstinence was shown in 9/14 (64.3%) participants. Nausea was observed in 2/14 (14.4%) of participants, throat irritation in 2/14 (14.4%) of participants, headache in 2/14 (14.4%) of participants , and dry cough in 4/14 (28.6%) of participants. However, these adverse events diminished substantially by week-24. Overall, one to two cartridges/day were used throughout the study. Positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia are not increased after smoking reduction/cessation in patients using e-cigarettes.
Conclusions: We have shown for the first time that the use of e-cigarette substantially decreased cigarette consumption without causing significant side effects in chronic schizophrenic patients who smoke not intending to quit. This was achieved without negative impacts on the symptoms of schizophrenia as assessed by SAPS and SANS symptoms scales.