Researchers Link Quit-Smoking Medications with Relieving Anhedonia


Researchers have found that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) eases an inability to experience pleasure, especially shortly after quitting, according to a new paper published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

UW-CTRI researcher Dr. Jessica Cook, the paper’s lead author, said this is another reason NRT should be an important tool used to combat withdrawal from smoking. Abstinence from tobacco can lead to anhedonia – a decreased ability to experience pleasure in response to rewarding events. 

“These results provide additional support that anhedonia following quitting is a key symptom of the tobacco withdrawal syndrome,” Cook said.

In a randomized control trial of about 1100 adults, UW-CTRI Researchers Dr. Tim Baker and Dr. Megan Piper, along with Cook, used time-varying-effect modeling to see whether anhedonia was related to other variables over time, such as treatment and tobacco dependence.

“We have found that smoking increases the capacity to respond pleasurably to non-drug rewards,” Cook said. “We wanted to examine whether smoking led to a decrease in the ability to respond to rewards, and how this loss in pleasure correlated over time with other withdrawal symptoms.”

Cook found that, following quitting, anhedonia was greatest amongst the most dependent smokers, especially during the early post-quit period when withdrawal is at its peak. Anhedonia was also correlated with craving early during the quit attempt.