Sex differences in negative affect and lapse behavior during acute tobacco abstinence: a laboratory study

Raina D Pang, Adam M Leventhal
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2013, 21 (4): 269-76
Heightened negative affect during acute tobacco abstinence in women relative to men could be an important factor underlying sex differences in smoking motivation. However, little controlled experimental work addresses this hypothesis. The current study investigated sex differences in withdrawal-related negative affect, time to start smoking on a lab analogue smoking lapse task, and the interrelation between sex, withdrawal-related negative affect, and smoking lapse behavior. Following a baseline session, current smokers (women: n = 68, men: n = 131) attended two counterbalanced lab sessions (16 hours smoking abstinence and ad libitum smoking) during which they completed self-report measures of mood and withdrawal symptoms followed by a laboratory analogue smoking lapse task. In this task participants are monetarily rewarded for delaying smoking. Performance on this task serves as an analogue model of smoking lapse behavior by measuring smoker's capability to resist temptation to smoke under conditions where abstinence is advantageous. Females showed greater abstinence induced increases in composite negative affect as well as several particular negative affect states (i.e., POMS Anger, Anxiety, Depression, and Confusion, ps < .05) but no differences in abstinence induced changes in other forms of affect or craving. Females also exhibited marginally greater abstinence induced decreases in their willingness to delay smoking for money (p = .10), which was mediated by abstinence induced increases in anger (p < .05). These results suggest that differential sensitivity to abstinence induced negative affect, particularly anger, could underlie sex specific smoking patterns. Negative affect during tobacco abstinence may be an important factor for understanding and treating nicotine addiction in women.

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