Nicotine withdrawal and stress-induced changes in pain sensitivity: A cross-sectional investigation between abstinent smokers and nonsmokers

Authors

  • Motohiro Nakajima,

    1. Duluth Medical Research Institute, Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth, Minnesota, USA
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  • Mustafa Al'Absi

    Corresponding author
    1. Duluth Medical Research Institute, Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth, Minnesota, USA
    • Address correspondence to: Mustafa al'Absi, Ph.D., Professor; Max & Mary La Due Pickworth Chair, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth, MN, 55812, USA. E-mail: malabsi@umn.edu

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  • This research was supported in part by grants to Dr. al'Absi from the National Institutes of Health (R01DA016351 and R01DA027232). We would like to thank Angie Forsberg, Elizabeth Ford, Barbara Gay, and Jie Gooder for assistance with data collection and management.

Abstract

Chronic smoking has been linked with alterations in endogenous pain regulation. These alterations may be pronounced when individuals quit smoking because nicotine withdrawal produces a variety of psychological and physiological symptoms. Smokers interested in quitting (n = 98) and nonsmokers (n = 37) completed a laboratory session including cold pressor test (CPT) and heat thermal pain. Smokers set a quit date and completed the session after 48 h of abstinence. Participants completed the pain assessments once after rest and once after stress. Cardiovascular and nicotine withdrawal measures were collected. Smokers showed blunted cardiovascular responses to stress relative to nonsmokers. Only nonsmokers had greater pain tolerance to CPT after stress than after rest. Lower systolic blood pressure was related to lower pain tolerance. These findings suggest that smoking withdrawal is associated with blunted stress response and increased pain sensitivity.

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