Posted from archive: 04.23.2013 | by AMRA


The frequency and intensity of cravings is one of the main predictors of failure in smoking cessation attempts. Nosen & Woody [Drug and Alcohol Dependence] reported on the effects of two brief interventions on nicotine withdrawal cravings during the first day of abstinence from smoking. One group of smokers received a mindfulness intervention that stressed acceptance of cravings, allowing them to come and go without attempts to control. A second group received a standard psychoeducational intervention. Both brief 60 to 90 minute interventions were delivered via computer slide show with voice-overs. A third group served as a no-treatment control.

The day after the intervention, one half of the group of 176 smokers quit smoking, and quitters were paged at various intervals throughout the day to rate their cravings. Participants also completed a questionnaire on their beliefs about cravings (e.g., whether they viewed cravings as signs of personal weakness or thought they needed to be controlled).

Both interventions significantly lowered cravings upon awakening the next morning. Both groups also experienced rising levels of craving throughout the day, so that after 2-3 hours their cravings equaled those of controls. After 10 hours, however, the standard psychoeducational intervention group continued to experience increasing cravings, whereas the mindfulness group experienced a significant drop in craving intensity. The mindfulness group also endorsed significantly fewer dysfunctional beliefs about cravings.

These results suggest that even brief training in “urge surfing” may significantly help quitters during their first day of abstinence.


Nosen, E., & Woody, S. R. (2013). Brief psycho-education affects circadian variability in nicotine craving during cessation. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132(1-2), 283-89. [PMID: 23478153]

[Link to abstract]