Effects of varenicline on abstinence and smoking reward following a programmed lapse

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Introduction: Varenicline (Chantix®) is an efficacious firstline medication for smoking cessation. Studies suggest that one mechanism by which varenicline facilitates sustained smoking abstinenceis by reducing the likelihood of relapse to smoking when a lapse, or slip, occurs during a quit attempt. The present study extends this line of research by conducting a prospective laboratory study to examine the relapse prevention effects of varenicline following a programmed lapse. Methods: Dailysmokers (N = 47) completed a 5-week outpatient study in which they were randomized to receive varenicline or placebo. The first week was a medication induction period that was immediately followed by a 4-week quit attempt. A programmed lapse (2 cigarettes smoked in the laboratory) occurred on the secondday of the quit attempt. Results: Participants receiving varenicline were slower to relapse and hadgreater total abstinence rates following lapse exposure. Participants in the varenicline group ratedlapse cigarettes lower on measures of reward and intoxication and showed increased behavioral economic demand elasticity for cigarettes (reduced cigarette purchasing at higher prices) compared with those receiving placebo. Conclusions: These results demonstrate a relapse prevention effect of varenicline following smoking lapse exposure and suggest that an attenuation of reward from smoking and the blunting of subjective effects of smoking may underlie and/or contribute to this effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-148
Number of pages10
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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