Tag: smoking

Reading of the Week: Smoking Cessation – Doing Bad, Feeling Good? Also, Ethnicity & Opioids (JAMA Psych) and Dr. Freedman on Lunches (Acad Psych)

From the Editor

We ask our patients about cannabis. We inquire about illicit drugs. But are we forgetting tobacco? A new paper in Psychiatric Services helps answer that question – and, perhaps, raises other questions, including about how we could do better. 

In the first selection, Sarah A. White (of Johns Hopkins University) and her co-authors draw on American data to look at smoking cessation medications in a new Psychiatric Services paper. Among more than 55,000 smokers (many of whom have mental illness), they find that: “Cessation pharmacotherapy for smokers remained vastly underprescribed across all groups. At least 83% of smokers with or without mental illness did not receive varenicline, NRT, or bupropion during the 14-year study period.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, Huiru Dong (of Harvard University) and her co-authors look at buprenorphine treatment and demographics in the United States. Their JAMA Psychiatry research letter, which was just published, finds a growing gap. “The observed heterogeneity in buprenorphine treatment duration among racial and ethnic groups may reflect disproportionate structural barriers in treatment retention for Opioid Use Disorder.”

In the third selection, Dr. David Freedman (of the University of Toronto) writes about resident lunches for Academic Psychiatry. Dr. Freedman, who is a resident, notes that in-person lunches shifted to virtual ones for more than two years because of the pandemic – something that was necessary but unfortunate. He argues that the gatherings are important. “Yet, as a collective of residents munch on the last bites of their sandwiches, say goodbye, and return to work, I am struck by the camaraderie. Funded resident lunches nurture the professional identities of psychiatry trainees – an essential element of medical education.”


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Reading of the Week: Tobacco & Cessation – the New NEJM Paper; Also, the Health of Health Care Workers (JAMA)

From the Editor

He could barely get out of bed because his depression was so severe. Yet he asked to be discharged because he wanted to smoke.

So often our patients struggle with their tobacco use disorder. But what medications have the most evidence? Do apps help? What should a clinician say during a brief encounter? This week, we consider a new paper written by Dr. Peter Selby and Laurie Zawertailo (both of the University of Toronto), just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The authors summarize the latest in the literature, offering a relevant review that provides answers to these and other questions. And they note the devastation caused by tobacco use: “The risk of lung cancer is 25 times as high and the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke is 2 to 4 times as high among smokers as among nonsmokers.” We summarize the paper and mull its clinical implications.

And in the other selection, Dr. Lisa S. Rotenstein (of Harvard University) and her co-authors think about well-being and burnout in a JAMA paper. In recent years, this topic has gathered more and more attention. That said, Dr. Rotenstein and her co-authors don’t focus on physicians and nurses, as many authors have, but consider other health care workers. They argue: “The everyday functioning of the health care system depends on hundreds of role types. Leaders must seek to address obstacles and causes of work-related frustration not only for physicians and nurses, but also for the home health care workers, nurses’ aides, respiratory therapists, and many others who serve patients every day.” 


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Reading of the Week: E-Cigs and Cessation – the New JAMA Paper; Also, Green Space & Schizophrenia (CJP) and Dr. Jessica Gregg on Needed Care (NEJM)

From the Editor

How to help him quit?

We often speak to our patients about the dangers of smoking – with middling success, especially with those who aren’t interested in cessation. Are e-cigarettes part of the solution? In a new JAMA Network Open paper, Karin A. Kasza (of the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center) and her co-authors report on a cohort study focused on this refractory population. “In this US nationally representative cohort study of 1600 adult daily cigarette smokers who did not initially use e-cigarettes and had no plans to ever quit smoking, subsequent daily e-cigarette use was significantly associated with an 8-fold greater odds of cigarette discontinuation compared with no e-cigarette use.”

In the second selection, we consider a new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry research letter. Dr. Martin Rotenberg (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors look at green space and schizophrenia. A connection? They find one. “We found that residing in an area with the lowest amount of green space was associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, independent of other sociodemographic and socioenvironmental factors.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Jessica Gregg (of the Oregon Health and Science University) writes about her experiences as a physician and as a patient. In this New England of Journal paper, she talks personally about sudden illness and unsatisfactory health care. “I knew – and know – that our system of not-care for the sick and scared is broken. I knew – and know – that our system of un-care for people affected by addiction or poverty, for those who make bad choices and those who were never offered fair choices in the first place, is even more fractured.”


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Reading of the Week: Helping Healthcare Workers Seek Help; Also, Smoking Cessation for Inpatients & Priebe on Why Patients Should Be Called Patients

From the Editor

How do we connect with them?

With the worst of the third wave now behind us, we are beginning to look forward. But for some, the problems of the pandemic aren’t fading. They will continue to struggle with mental health problems.

Healthcare workers are particularly at risk. They are also, collectively, a group that is difficult to engage. In the first selection, we look at a new paper from The British Journal of Psychiatry. Dr. Doron Amsalem (of Columbia University) and his co-authors do a video intervention to increase treatment seeking. The resulting RCT is impressive. The authors write: “The high proportion of healthcare workers surveyed in this study who reported symptoms of probable generalised anxiety, depression and/or PTSD emphasises the need for intervention aimed at increasing treatment-seeking among US healthcare workers. A three-minute online social contact-based video intervention effectively increased self-reported treatment-seeking intentions among healthcare workers.”


In the second selection, Richard A. Brown (of the University of Texas at Austin) and his co-authors look at a new approach to an old problem: high smoking rates among people with severe mental illness. Focusing on inpatient hospitalizations, they design an intervention built on motivational interviewing. We consider their JAMA Psychiatry paper.

Is the term patient antiquated? Should we use other terms, like client or service user? In a BJPsych Bulletin paper, Dr. Stefan Priebe (of Queen Mary University of London) argues that we serve patients – and that words matter. “Mental healthcare is based on shared values and scientific evidence. Both require precise thinking, and precise thinking requires an exact and consistent terminology.”


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Reading of the Week: Do E-Cigarettes Help with Smoking Cessation? The New NEJM Paper

From the Editor

Last week, I spoke to a patient who wanted passes off the ward so that he could smoke. When I suggested that we could help him reduce his nicotine use – and maybe even help him quit – he responded: “I’ve been smoking for 40 years. I’ll never quit.”

As much as the comment is disappointing, it is all too familiar. Nicotine is highly addictive, and it’s very challenging for our patients to quit.

What then to make of e-cigarettes? While they have been marketed well for smoking cessation, the evidence to date has been lacking. Do they offer a pathway to ending nicotine use? Or are e-cigarettes another type of nicotine product – addictive and ultimately unhelpful?

This week, we look at a paper just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Queen Mary University of London’s Peter Hajek and his co-authors report on a “pragmatic, multicenter, individually randomized, controlled trial” comparing e-cigarettes to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). It’s the first adequately powered study on this topic. And this Very Big Paper comes with a Very Big Result: e-cigarettes offered a strong advantage over NRTs.

e-cigGreat ad, great product?

In this week’s Reading, we look at the Hayek et al. paper and consider e-cigarettes.

Have thoughts on the Readings of the Week? Please take this 15-question survey to make the Readings better: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GP5XXMB.


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Reading of the Week: Smoking, Cognitive Performance, & Mental Illness: Quitting Matters – the New AJP Study

From the Editor

I don’t quite know when the shift occurred, but somewhere between the zeal of residency and the busyness of life as an attending physician, I stopped documenting nicotine use disorder. Indeed, working with severely ill patients, it was a given that they did smoke, and thus hardly worth mentioning. (Studies suggest that smoking is thrice as prevalent among those with schizophrenia compared to the general population.)

For many of our patients, tobacco use is a deadly problem – a major reason why people with severe, persistent mental illness have a life expectancy much shorter than ours.

This week, we consider a new paper from The American Journal of Psychiatry. The University of Academisch Medisch Centrum Universiteit van Amsterdam’s Dr. Jentien M. Vermeulen and her co-authors consider smoking in those with psychosis, their families and a control group, studying the impact on smoking on cognition – and also the impact of smoking cessation on cognition. Though work has been done in this area, the Vermenulen et al. paper is strong: they consider two comparison groups and follow people for six years. Spoiler alert: smoking cessation improved cognition in people with psychosis.

1304701062nosmokingButt out, think better?

In this Reading, we consider the paper, as well as the editorial by the University of Miami’s Philip D. Harvey, who raises some good points about what is – and isn’t – in the data.

We close the Reading with a couple of housekeeping items, including my new podcast (which may be of interest to Ontario doctors).


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Reading of the Week: Smoking Cessation & Incentives – the NEJM Paper

From the Editor

“So to put it simply, forcing people to choose is not always wise, and remaining neutral is not always possible.” University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein write this comment in their widely-read book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. They argue that people could be nudged in a certain direction, improving outcomes. Among the book’s fans: former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former US President Barack Obama.

Thaler and Sunstein write about shaping basic decisions, like encouraging people to choose among their company’s pension plans. Retirement planning can significantly help people with their finances in their twilight years. But what about substance use? The stakes seem higher: smoking cessation can prevent major health problems long before retirement.

This week, we look at a new paper by University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s Dr. Scott D. Halpern and his co-authors. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, they consider smoking cessation and find “financial incentives added to free cessation aids resulted in a higher rate of sustained smoking abstinence than free cessation aids alone…”

file-20170804-6503-18ujgw6Nudging people to butt out?

In this week’s Reading, we consider the paper and its implications. (There is, however, no financial incentive offered here.)


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Reading of the Week: NEJM and Smoking Cessation

More than 50 years after the release of the first Surgeon General’s report on the harmful effects of smoking, national policies, behavioral programs, and pharmacologic approaches have helped reduce smoking rates in the United States. However, the need for new approaches is clear because smoking remains the leading cause of preventable illness and death.

So begins a big paper from The New England Journal with a simple aim: getting people to butt out. It raises two important questions: If we are serious about promoting smoking cessation, are we willing to put ‘our money where our mouth is’ – literally? And how could we do this?

“Randomized Trial of Four Financial-Incentive Programs for Smoking Cessation” by Dr. Scott D. Halpern et al. is this week’s Reading; it has just been published.

Though other papers have been written on this topic, the Halpern et al. paper is clever and interesting – and the results are surprising.

And, don’t tell the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine: the results are also disappointing. Continue reading