Recalled first reactions to inhaling nicotine predict the level of physical dependence

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


BACKGROUND: The level of physical dependence is a measure of addiction that correlates highly with addiction-associated changes in brain structure. We sought to determine whether age at first inhalation and initial reactions to inhaling nicotine are related to level of physical dependence in early adulthood.

METHODS: Young adults (n=312; mean age=24 years; 51% female) from the Nicotine Dependence in Teens study who had smoked at least once in the preceding three months completed self-report questionnaires in 2011-12. We assessed level of physical dependence with three validated self-report items assessing 'wanting,' 'craving' and 'needing' triggered by nicotine deprivation. Survey items assessed smoking behavior, including age at first inhalation, and recalled first reactions to inhaling nicotine.

RESULTS: After adjusting for covariates, experiencing relaxation, heart racing/pounding, rush or "buzz" (OR=1.45; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.94) and dizziness (OR=1.58; 95% CI: 1.15, 2.18) at first nicotine inhalation were associated with an increased odds of being at a higher level of physical dependence in young adulthood; the association for experiencing relaxation (OR=1.78; 95% CI: 1.20, 2.64) and heart racing/pounding (OR=1.51; 95% CI: 1.00, 2.28) persisted after additionally controlling for all other first reactions. Neither age at first inhalation nor unpleasant first reactions predicted level of physical dependence.

CONCLUSIONS: In accordance with prior research, our findings suggest that smokers who are particularly sensitive to the pleasant, "buzz-related" and generally arousing effects of nicotine may be more likely to attain higher levels of physical dependence.


Addiction, Dependence, Smoking, Tobacco, Young adults

DOI of Published Version



Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014 Oct 1;143:167-72. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.07.021.Link to article on publisher's site.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Drug and alcohol dependence

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed