Anxiety sensitivity as an amplifier of subjective and behavioral tobacco abstinence effects

Michael J Zvolensky, Samantha G Farris, Casey R Guillot, Adam M Leventhal
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2014 September 1, 142: 224-30

BACKGROUND: Anxiety sensitivity, a transdiagnostic cognitive vulnerability factor described as an amplifier of negative emotional states, is implicated in the maintenance of cigarette smoking and cessation difficulties. The current study aimed to examine the role of anxiety sensitivity in predicting abstinence-induced changes in nicotine withdrawal, smoking urges and smoking behavior during an experimental relapse analogue task (RAT).

METHOD: Participants were 258 non-treatment seeking smokers (M [SD] age=44.0 [10.73]; 69.8% male). Participants attended two counterbalanced experimental sessions including smoking deprivation (16 h of smoking abstinence) and smoking as usual. The Minnesota Nicotine Withdrawal Scale (MNWS) and Brief Questionnaire of Smoking Urges (QSU) were completed at each session in addition to the RAT. Hierarchical regressions were conducted to examine the predictive impact of anxiety sensitivity on withdrawal and urges during smoking deprivation. Follow-up mediational analyses were conducted to examine whether abstinence-induced withdrawal and urges mediated responding during the RAT.

RESULTS: Anxiety sensitivity amplified the effects of experimentally manipulated acute abstinence on subjective nicotine withdrawal symptoms and smoking urges. Additionally, higher levels of anxiety sensitivity indirectly predicted shorter latency to smoking initiation after deprivation during the RAT through the effects of greater abstinence-induced nicotine withdrawal and smoking urges. Anxiety sensitivity was unrelated to increased smoking during the RAT, although this may be partially attributed to the type of laboratory assessment employed.

CONCLUSIONS: Elevated anxiety sensitivity appears to impact initiation of smoking after nicotine deprivation through the effects of abstinence-induced withdrawal and smoking urges.

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