The relationship between level of cigarette consumption and latency to the onset of retrospectively reported withdrawal symptoms

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Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

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Adolescent; Adult; Child; Female; Health Surveys; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Questionnaires; Recurrence; Reproducibility of Results; Smoking; Smoking Cessation; Substance Withdrawal Syndrome; Time Factors; Tobacco Use Disorder; United States


Community Health | Preventive Medicine


RATIONALE: Subthreshold smokers (who smoke < or =5 cigarettes/day) experience withdrawal symptoms, yet they smoke less than is required to maintain serum nicotine levels.

OBJECTIVES: For study 1, our aim was to determine (1) if adult subthreshold smokers report withdrawal symptoms; (2) how they rate symptom severity; (3) the length of their latency to withdrawal symptoms; (4) and the relationship between level of cigarette consumption and latency to withdrawal. The aim of study 2 was to attempt to replicate the results of study 1 in a nationally representative sample and to compare subthreshold and threshold (> or =6 cigarettes/day) smokers.

METHODS: Study 1 was conducted through telephone interviews. Study 2 was conducted through secondary analysis of data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (self-administered in schools).

RESULTS: In study 1, all subjects experienced withdrawal symptoms. The mean number of symptoms was 4.3; mean intensity of each symptom was >6 (1-10 scale). A quarter of the subjects could go for > or =2 days before experiencing withdrawal. More frequent smokers had a shorter latency to withdrawal (r=-0.43, p

CONCLUSIONS: Although subthreshold smokers experience significant withdrawal symptoms, they can smoke infrequently because symptoms may not appear for one to several days. Consistent with the sensitization-homeostasis theory, low doses of nicotine can suppress withdrawal symptoms over long periods.

DOI of Published Version



Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Oct;188(3):335-42. Epub 2006 Sep 5. Link to article on publisher's site

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