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Vol. 20, No. 5, 2014
Issue release date: September 2014
Eur Addict Res 2014;20:248-253

Can Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation as Add-On to Psychotherapy Improve Nicotine Abstinence? Results from a Pilot Study

Dieler A.C. · Dresler T. · Joachim K. · Deckert J. · Herrmann M.J. · Fallgatter A.J.
aDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, University Hospital, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Munich, bDepartment of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Julius Maximilian University Würzburg, Würzburg, cDepartment of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, dLEAD Graduate School, and eCIN, Center of Integrative Neuroscience, Excellence Cluster, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

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Smoking is among the leading causes of mortality worldwide. Discontinuing smoking can increase life expectancy to the presmoking level. Unaided attempts are often ineffective, strengthening the necessity of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), nicotine replacement or pharmacotherapy. Still, relapse rates are high. Recently, a modulation of nicotine craving, which predicts relapse, through transcranial magnetic stimulation to the prefrontal cortex was shown. In a pilot study, we investigated whether 4 sessions of intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) as add-on treatment to CBT reduces nicotine craving and improves long-term abstinence (at 3, 6 and 12 months). Smokers were randomly assigned to a treatment (n = 38) or a sham group (n = 36). Although we did not find reduced craving, we could show higher abstinence rates in the treatment group at 3 months. At 6 and 12 months abstinence rates did not differ significantly. Results at 12 months, however, have to be interpreted cautiously due to significant differences in the dropout rates between the two groups at this time point. We provide first evidence for a beneficial effect of additional iTBS on intermediate nicotine abstinence; however, the low number of iTBS sessions might have prevented longer effects. More lasting effects might be achieved by iTBS maintenance sessions in analogy to the treatment of depression. © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel

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