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Why are antidepressant drugs effective smoking cessation aids?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mohammed Shoaib, Yazead Buhidma


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© 2018 Bentham Science Publishers. Background: Before the advent of varenicline, antidepressant drugs were reported to exhibit better clinical efficacy than nicotine replacement therapy as smoking cessation aids. The most studied is bupropion, a clinically-effective antidepressant, the first to be marketed throughout Europe for smoking cessation. Since depression and tobacco smoking have a high incidence of co-occurrence, this would implicate an underlying link between these two conditions. If this correlation can be confirmed, then by treating one condition the related state would also be treated. Objectives: This review article will evaluate the various theories relating to the use of antidepressant drugs as smoking cessation aids and the underlying mechanisms link tobacco smoking and depression to explain the action of antidepressants in smoking cessation. One plausible theory of self-medication which proposes that people take nicotine to treat their own depressive symptoms and the affective withdrawal symptoms seen with abstinence from the drug. If the depression can instead be treated with antidepressants, then they may stop smoking altogether. Another theory is that the neurobiological pathways underlying smoking and depression may be similar. By targeting the pathways of depression in the brain, antidepressants would also treat the pathways affected by smoking and ease nicotine cravings and withdrawal. The role of genetic variation predisposing an individual to depression and initiation of tobacco smoking has also been discussed as a potential link between the two conditions. Such variation could either occur within the neurobiological pathways involved in both disorders or it could lead to an individual being depressed and self-medicating with nicotine.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shoaib M, Buhidma Y

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Current Neuropharmacology

Year: 2018

Volume: 16

Issue: 4

Pages: 426-437

Print publication date: 01/05/2018

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

ISSN (print): 1570-159X

ISSN (electronic): 1875-6190

Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers B.V.


DOI: 10.2174/1570159X15666170915142122