Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry

Changes in craving for a cigarette and arterial nicotine plasma concentrations in abstinent smokers.

PMID 15276686


Although the relationship between nicotine and changes in heart rate and blood pressure has been demonstrated, the relationship between nicotine and subjective effects such as decreased craving, relaxation, sickness, and decreased nervousness, is less well delineated. In this study, arterial nicotine levels were drawn in 21 smokers who smoked two average nicotine (AN) cigarettes and one low nicotine (LN) cigarette. Craving for a cigarette, relaxation, sickness, and decreased nervousness were rated on a visual analog scale (VAS) before and after smoking each cigarette. None of these subjective measures except craving for a cigarette was changed significantly by smoking. The change in craving was significantly correlated with the area under the plasma nicotine concentration versus time curve (r = -0.57, p = 0.01) calculated from the arterial nicotine samples drawn up to 20 min after the initiation of smoking the first AN cigarette. Although well-documented behavioral manipulations, such as smoking denicotinized cigarettes, reduce craving, increases in plasma arterial nicotine concentrations after smoking the first cigarette of the day also reduce craving. Both the psychology and pharmacology of nicotine/tobacco smoking are involved in craving reduction.