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Smoking and depression
16 July 2001
with Norman Swan
It's a gross oversimplification, but in general there are two kinds of smoker: the ones who can give up fairly easily, and the ones who are really glued to the drug.
Some of them simply have a strong addiction which is probably stronger than heroin's. But there's growing evidence that a proportion of hard-core smokers are actually using tobacco as self-medication - possibly without realising it.
When this group of hard-core smokers is examined in more detail they seem to have a higher rate of psychological troubles, such as depression, and it makes quitting the habit very much more complicated.
One study recently reported took a group of heavy smokers (more than 20 a day) who had a history of severe depression yet were fine and on no medication.
They were then put through a smoking cessation programme.
Now the study wasn't perfect because quite a few dropped out, but the findings, nonetheless, were salutary.
Those who'd successfully quit had more than seven times the risk of re-developing a bout of depression compared to the ones who hadn't managed to give up.
Possibly smokers with depression know that already - but it means that giving up the evil weed may need additional assistance in such people.
It also raises the question whether nicotine replacement therapy could be used as an antidepressant?
Glassman AH et al The Lancet 2001 vol 357 pp 1929-1932
Niaura R and Abrams DB The Lancet 2001 vol 357 pp 1900-1901
Health News 16/7/2001 - Cigs and booze a bad combination
Health Report 21/6/1999 - Nicotine withdrawal
National Quit Campaign
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