UT Austin-Ascension Seton Study Seeks to Help Psychiatric Patients Quit Smoking

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AUSTIN, Texas – (Nov. 13, 2014) – A $3 million, five-year federally funded study led by The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Nursing and the Ascension Seton Mind Institute will attempt to get psychiatric patients who smoke cigarettes to kick the habit – and see if that improves and lengthens their lives.

Research will involve 422 inpatients from Ascension Seton Shoal Creek Hospital in Austin and is supported by co-investigators Drs. Kari Wolf and Kimberly Kjome of the Ascension Seton Mind Institute, which is part of the Ascension Seton. Ascension Seton Shoal Creek is the only Central Texas site recruiting patients for this study.

“Given the profound effect smoking has on one’s health, anything we can do to help our patients stop smoking will have a major impact on their health status and lifespan,” Wolf said.

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People with psychiatric disorders consume almost half (44.3%) of all cigarettes smoked in the U.S. and have lifespans 25 to 32 years shorter than the general population. Factors such as cigarette smoking and other lifestyle behaviors are primary factors.

Researchers believe stop smoking interventions that have proven successful for patients in general hospitals can be adapted for psychiatric patients.

“We recognize the significant morbidity tobacco contributes to in our population, and welcome research aimed at improving outcome for our patients,” Kjome said.

The five-year project, entitled “Extended Care for Smoking Cessation Following Psychiatric Hospitalization,” received $3 million in funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to develop and test an intervention consisting of:

An in-hospital motivational counseling session to motivate patients with psychiatric disorders to quit smoking.
A prescription for combination nicotine replacement therapy upon discharge that includes both nicotine patches and nicotine lozenges.
Automated, interactive voice response telephone calls over three months after hospital discharge. The calls provide encouraging messages and guidance, gauge participants’ readiness to quit smoking and include opportunities to speak to a live smoking cessation counselor and continue medications.

Wolf and Kjome are working with Dr. Richard A. Brown, research professor at UT Austin School of Nursing and principal investigator, and Dr. Nancy Rigotti, the study’s other principal investigator and director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“In 2011, 1.8 million adults in the U.S. received inpatient psychiatric treatment,” Brown said. “The majority of psychiatric hospitals ban smoking on their premises so that patients have an opportunity to experience abstinence for a number of days. We hope to capitalize on this time and make it a teachable moment, thereby motivating them to quit smoking and providing a means of support for their continued success after leaving the hospital.”

Results of the earlier intervention with adult smokers in a general hospital who wanted to quit smoking, developed by Rigotti, were published in the August 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study concluded that smokers who followed the intervention were more successful in quitting smoking after a general hospital stay.

In addition to reducing the health disparity in this population, the research team will examine the broader positive effects of intervention on health care utilization after hospital discharge, such as the frequency of emergency room visits and readmissions.

“It’s conceivable that, if successful in this case, the model could be disseminated broadly and offered by psychiatric hospitals across the United States,” Brown said.