Improving the rates of quitting smoking for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.

OBJECTIVE: Smoking is highly prevalent and refractory among people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study aimed to improve the rate of quitting smoking for veterans with PTSD by integrating treatment for nicotine dependence into mental health care.

METHOD: Smokers undergoing treatment for PTSD (N=66) were randomly assigned to 1) tobacco use treatment delivered by mental health providers and integrated with psychiatric care (integrated care) versus 2) cessation treatment delivered separately from PTSD care by smoking-cessation specialists (usual standard of care). Seven-day point prevalence abstinence was the primary outcome, measured at 2, 4, 6, and 9 months after random assignment. Data were analyzed by using a generalized estimating equations approach following the intent-to-treat principle.

RESULTS: Subjects assigned to integrated care were five times more likely than subjects undergoing the usual standard of care to abstain from smoking across follow-up assessment intervals (odds ratio=5.23). Subjects in the integrated care condition were significantly more likely than subjects in usual standard of care to receive transdermal nicotine and nicotine gum. They also received a greater number of smoking-cessation counseling sessions. Stopping smoking was not associated with worsening symptoms of PTSD or depression.

CONCLUSIONS: Smoking-cessation interventions can be safely incorporated into routine mental health care for PTSD and are more effective than treatment delivered separately by a specialized smoking-cessation clinic. Integrating cessation treatment into psychiatric care may have the potential for improving smoking quit rates in other populations of chronically mentally ill smokers.