Grantee: Brian L. Hitsman

Brian L. Hitsman

Brian L. Hitsman, Ph.D.

Behavioral Scientist
  • Northwestern University

Dr. Hitsman's interest in nicotine and tobacco research developed during his graduate training in clinical health psychology, after he learned that smoking cessation could have the single greatest effect on reducing a person's risk of developing chronic diseases, including cancer. Much of Dr. Hitsman's work has focused on the treatment of nicotine dependence in marginalized and underserved populations and on increasing understanding of the psychological and neurobiological factors that work to maintain nicotine dependence in these populations.

People who struggle with mental health disorders, such as major depression, smoke at high rates and experience substantial difficulty quitting. However, little is known about treatment strategies that might optimize smoking cessation for these populations because almost all clinical trials purposely exclude them. Dr. Hitsman's current study, "Behavioral Activation and Varenicline for Smoking Cessation in Depressed Smokers," is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial that aims to evaluate the combination of varenicline and behavioral activation for smoking cessation among individuals with major depression. Specifically, Dr. Hitsman and colleagues will assess whether the intervention enhances long-term abstinence for smokers with major depression and, if so, whether this treatment combination achieves its effects by addressing the unique psychological factors that appear to maintain nicotine dependence in this population.

Although adults with mental health disorders have the most to gain from quitting smoking, they still are the least likely to have their nicotine dependence treated. In order to achieve a major reduction in smoking rates and health disparities, much more work needs to be done to help individuals with mental illness to stop smoking.”

Selected Grants