Background. Nicotine withdrawal is associated with failed smoking cessation and thus contributes to continuance of the habit and increases risk of smoking-related illnesses. Withdrawal is also associated with psychiatric disorders such as depression and alcoholism. However, relatively little is known about how to characterize the severity of withdrawal, including whether withdrawal subtypes exist in male smokers. If so, do these subtypes represent quantitative or qualitative differences?
Method. Smoking and withdrawal data were obtained from 4112 male–male twin pairs of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry during a 1992 administration of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Latent Class Analysis (LCA) was used to derive significantly different nicotine withdrawal profiles, and their association with psychiatric disorders was assessed. Genetic and environmental contributions and the correlation between these contributions were evaluated using bivariate biometrical modeling of the withdrawal phenotype and failed smoking cessation.
Results. The LCA model which best fit the data was a four-class severity continuum. Psychiatric disorders were significantly associated with more severe classes and the magnitude of the association increased as withdrawal severity increased. Genetics accounted for 31% and 51% of the variance in risk for withdrawal and failed cessation, respectively. The genetic contributions were significantly correlated (r=0·37).
Conclusions. Nicotine withdrawal classes are characterized by quantitative differences. The strong association between psychiatric disorders and withdrawal severity and the significant genetic correlation between withdrawal and cessation highlight the importance of withdrawal severity. Further refinement of the DSM definition of withdrawal to incorporate severity ratings may be warranted.