Our clinical trial work focuses on modifying the delivery of evidence-based treatment to increase reach (e.g., telephone-based treatment) and effectiveness (e.g., extended duration treatment) and evaluating novel targeted interventions that combine psychological and pharmacological therapies.
In addition to our interest in smoking cessation, we examine the effects of smoking cessation on psychological and cardiovascular health. Our human laboratory studies are concerned with identifying psychological and neurobiological factors that maintain smoking and nicotine dependence.
Behavioral Activation and Varenicline for Smoking Cessation in Depressed Smokers
The overall goal of this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, conducted at Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania, is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of behavioral activation plus varenicline for treating nicotine dependence in smokers with current/recent major depressive disorder. Six hundred and thirty smokers with at least mild depression symptoms will be randomized to receive 12 weeks of one of four treatments: standard behavior therapy + placebo, behavioral activation for smoking cessation + placebo, standard behavior therapy + varenicline or bhavioral activation for smoking cessation + varenicline.
Menthol Cigarette Use, Tobacco Dependence and Cognition
The purpose of this study is to examine how cigarette smoking relates to nicotine dependence and cognition. The study will include one in-person visit lasting between 2.5-3 hours at our lab at Northwestern University in downtown Chicago. The study involves providing breath and saliva samples to assess recent smoking behavior; filling out questionnaires on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and completing computer tasks that measure cognitive functioning, including attention, memory, and motor control. Participants are also asked to smoke one of their own preferred cigarettes through a handheld device in our laboratory room. Individuals are not required to stop smoking for this study.
Sign up to participate online or call 1-773-340-1506.
Extended Varenicline Treatment for Smoking Among Cancer Patients
Individuals diagnosed with cancer tend to smoke at much higher rates than the general population. Moreover, fewer than 50 percent of these individuals are able to quit smoking or stay quit after being diagnosed. Using a double-blind placebo-controlled design involving 374 cancer patients at Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania, this study aims to compare standard varenicline treatment (12 weeks) to extended varenicline treatment (24 weeks) for increasing week 24 and week 52 biochemically-confirmed seven-day point prevalence abstinence. All participants also receive brief behavior therapy administered both in-person and via telephone.
COPD and Well-Being Study
Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience rates of depression and anxiety that are up to 10 times higher than those in the general population. Further, COPD is triggered primarily by cigarette smoking, and many patients continue to smoke following diagnosis, indicating high levels of nicotine dependence. Characterizing shared mechanisms that underlie emotional distress and nicotine dependence may shed light on key risk factors that can be assessed in the course of clinical care for COPD and modified by targeted intervention. In the current study, we will assess relations between three theory-based psychological risk factors (i.e., anxiety sensitivity, distress intolerance, and anhedonia) and patient-reported and clinical outcomes among COPD patients. This study will be the first to our knowledge to examine shared psychological risk factors underlying comorbid conditions among COPD patients.
Targeting Depression and Nicotine Dependence to Promote Cardiovascular Health
Concurrent depression and nicotine dependence can synergistically increase risk for cardiovascular disease, but whether individuals can synergistically reduce cardiovascular disease risk through simultaneous treatment of these conditions is unknown. Therefore, the overall objective of this project is to assess whether simultaneous depression remission and smoking cessation synergistically improve cardiovascular health using two methodologies. First, we will use the Coronary Artery Risk Development In Young Adults (CARDIA) study, a community-based, biracial longitudinal study following 5,115 individuals over 25 years. Second, this project will evaluate the same relationship within the framework of the clinical trial of smoking cessation in depressed smokers.
Distress Tolerance and Smoking Lapse Among Motivated Versus Unmotivated Smokers
The purpose of this study is to examine how smoking behavior and motivation to quit smoking relate to individual differences in personality. The study will include two visits: a one-hour initial session and a three-hour lab session about a week later. At the lab session, you will be asked to not smoke six hours immediately prior to this session. The study involves providing breath samples to assess recent smoking behavior; filling out questionnaires on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and completing laboratory tasks that measure personality traits and smoking behavior.
Reducing Tobacco Use Disparities Among Adults in Safety Net Community Health Centers
This two-group randomized controlled trial is evaluating the effectiveness of a population health management intervention for increasing state quitline treatment access, engagement, utilization, and cessation versus usual clinic-based care alone in 550 low-income smokers. The theory-based intervention to be evaluated in this study, named Choose to Change, will be automated via the electronic health record (EHR) system and involve the following components: mailed letter outreach and automated text or voice messaging that is targeted to low-income smokers who are not yet ready to quit; proactive quitline treatment (counseling and nicotine patch, gum or lozenge using a flexible quit date paradigm); and treatment utilization and outcomes feedback provided by the Illinois Tobacco Quitline direct to the EHR system.
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training
Hitsman is a mentor for the Behavioral Medicine emphasis in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Clinical Psychology Doctoral program. He is interested in working with students with interest and experience in the areas of nicotine dependence and smoking cessation, clinical trials, biological and behavioral mechanisms of addiction, smoking cessation in healthcare settings and comorbid psychological and medical disease.
If you are interested in applying to the program, please see the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program website.
Undergraduate Research Training
We are seeking interns interested in clinical and health psychology to help conduct the day-to-day tasks of running clinical trials. Minimum requirement of 10 hours per week. Position is located at the Chicago (medical) campus. Specific duties include:
- Phone calls: Conducting initial telephone eligibility screening and scheduling; obtaining medical clearance when candidates present with specific medical conditions. Completing reminder calls for upcoming sessions.
- Scanning: All participant data into MS Access database and completing data quality assurance checks per study protocol.
- Assisting participants in completing study questionnaires.
- Preparing/maintaining protocol materials and participant study charts.
- Assisting with biological sample collection, storage and shipment.
If you would like to apply, please email your resume or CV and contact information to Anna Veluz-Wilkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smoking Cessation Resources
In-Person Smoking Cessation Programs
Illinois Tobacco Quitline (American Lung Association)
Free, unlimited counseling and (if eligible) free medication
Illinois Phone: 1-866-QUIT-YES or 1-866-784-8937
National Line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-855-DEJELO-YA for Spanish speakers
Courage to Quit Programs
Courage to Quit
University of Chicago: 773-702-6685; 773-702-6181
Northwest Community Hospital Group: 847-618-7992
Skokie Health Department: 847-933-8252
Online Smoking Cessation Programs
- Freedom from Smoking Program (American Lung Association)
- EX (Legacy Foundation)
- Stop Smoking