Jan. 14, 2004 A laboratory dose of nicotine given to smokers generally results in feelings of satisfaction, but the same dose given to a nonsmoker more often triggers negative emotions, new research finds.
Ex-smokers felt more energized after the dose than the other groups, and nonsmokers felt more of a “head rush” than the others.
The findings linking mood to nicotine are reported in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
Kenneth A. Perkins, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh asked 93 volunteers to rate their feelings on 23 measures of emotion in response to the dose of nicotine. These measures were then grouped into five major categories.
Combining and simplifying those scales, Perkins says, may help researchers more easily link the emotional effects of nicotine with individual characteristics like genetics, personality or sensation-seeking.
The researchers noted that asking subjects to inhale tobacco would have biased results in favor of the smokers. Also, researchers consider it unethical to ask non-smokers and ex-smokers to smoke for the purposes of a study. So instead of real cigarettes, the University of Pittsburgh researchers used a nasal spray — either a placebo or one of two different controlled doses of nicotine. The higher dose of nicotine spray was the equivalent of smoking one-half to one full cigarette.
On a scale of positive effects (using terms like “comfortable” or “satisfied”), the smokers reported the highest scores, with the nonsmokers reporting the lowest scores. Former smokers fell in the middle. On the negative effects scale (using “anger,” “depression” or “tension”), nonsmokers scored higher than smokers and former smokers, who ranked about the same.
On the “energized” scale, ex-smokers scored the highest, smokers ranked in the middle, and nonsmokers scored significantly lower. On the “fatigued” scale, differences were modest, but nonsmokers reported higher scores, ex-smokers the lowest, with current smokers in the middle.
Perkins’ team set up a fifth category called “head rush,” which included concepts like buzzed, lightheaded or jittery. Smokers scored low on the “head rush” scale, meaning that they were accustomed to nicotine’s effects. Ex-smokers scored in the middle and nonsmokers scored the highest.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse provided support for this research.
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