Nicotine dependence and illness severity in schizophrenia.


BACKGROUND: Reasons for the increased prevalence of cigarette smoking in schizophrenia are unclear. Studies assessing clinical symptoms have sampled heterogeneous populations, with discrepant findings. AIMS: To examine the relationship between clinical features, social adjustment and nicotine dependence in a geographically defined population of people with schizophrenia. METHOD: Cross-sectional clinical study of 131 people with schizophrenia in Nithsdale, Scotland. RESULTS: Smokers were younger, mostly males and three times more likely to be unemployed. Those with severe nicotine dependence had greater scores on the positive subscale of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), and were prescribed higher doses of antipsychotic. Those with mild-moderate dependence had greater scores on the PANSS negative subscale. Greater symptom severity was associated with poorer social adjustment. Psychopathology and social adjustment were similar in quitters and never-smokers. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate an association between nicotine dependence, clinical symptoms and social adjustment in schizophrenia. Although causal links cannot be inferred, identifying the relationship between nicotine dependence and psychopathology may have some value in the management of smoking in schizophrenia. Further longitudinal studies are required to explore this relationship.