Gender differences in acute tobacco withdrawal: effects on subjective, cognitive, and physiological measures

Adam M Leventhal, Andrew J Waters, Susan Boyd, Eric T Moolchan, Caryn Lerman, Wallace B Pickworth
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2007, 15 (1): 21-36
Gender differences in tobacco withdrawal are of considerable clinical importance, but research findings on this topic have been mixed. Methodological variation in samples sizes, experimental design, and measures across studies may explain the inconsistent results. The current study examined whether male (n = 101) and female (n = 102) smokers (> or =15 cigarettes/day) differed in abstinence-induced changes on a battery of self-report measures (withdrawal, affect, craving), cognitive performance tasks (attention, psychomotor performance), and physiological responses (heart rate, blood pressure, brain electroencephalogram). Participants attended 2 counterbalanced laboratory sessions, 1 following 12 hr of abstinence and the other following ad libitum smoking. Results showed that women reported greater abstinence-induced increases in negative affect, withdrawal-related distress, and urge to smoke to relieve withdrawal distress. In contrast, both genders reported similar abstinence-induced changes in positive affect and urge to smoke for pleasure. Men and women exhibited generally similar abstinence-induced changes in physiological and cognitive performance measures. In addition, gender did not moderate the association between withdrawal symptoms and baseline measures of smoking behavior and dependence. Abstinence-induced changes in withdrawal distress mediated the effect of gender on latency until the 1st cigarette of the day at trend levels ( p < .10). These findings suggest that there are qualitative gender differences in the acute tobacco withdrawal syndrome that may underlie gender-specific smoking patterns.

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