Warren Bickel wins major grant for smoking cessation research

Warren K. Bickel, Ph.D.

Warren K. Bickel, Ph.D.

Warren Bickel, an internationally recognized addiction expert at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, recently received a $3.2-million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for research on improving self-control in smokers seeking to quit cigarettes. The grant will provide between $573,000 and $716,000 a year over a five-year period to develop innovative new ways to enhance the smokers’ ability to abstain from acting on their nicotine cravings.

Bickel’s research team will recruit hundreds of smokers into the study and characterize the degree to which they discount the future. The scientists will then compare the volunteers who discount the future the most with those who discount it the least. If, as Bickel suspects, the ones who discount the future the most are the ones most susceptible to smoking-related cues during mild tobacco withdrawal, the researchers will help them build resistance by offering a range of behavioral exercises – such as training aimed at enhancing working memory – that Bickel’s previous research has shown to be effective in helping people envision a longer-term future.

The newly funded study will be the first to apply findings on self-control failure – discoveries that have largely been made by Bickel’s team – into effective interventions to bolster resistance to nicotine cues among smokers.

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