Euphoriant effects of nicotine in smokers: Fact or artifact?

Reuven Dar*, Rachel Kaplan, Lior Shaham, Hanan Frenk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Rationale: The claim that nicotine in cigarettes is euphoriant to smokers is largely based on two studies (Pomerleau and Pomerleau, Psychopharmacology, 108:460-465, 1992; Tobacco Control, 3:374, 1994) in which smokers were instructed to respond to sensations of rush, buzz, or high while smoking low-nicotine or regular cigarettes. However, the assumption that these sensations are pleasurable was not tested and may have biased the results. Objectives: The aim of this study was to re-examine the claim that smoked nicotine is euphoriant to smokers. Methods: Study 1 surveyed the frequency and pleasantness of the smoking-related sensations of rush, buzz, and high in a sample of smokers. Study 2 replicated Pomerleau and Pomerleau (Psychopharmacology, 108:460-465, 1992) with two sets of instruction. One set, as in the original study, defined these sensations as pleasurable, whereas the other defined them as unpleasant. Results: Study 1 found that whereas rush and high were perceived as pleasant, buzz was unpleasant to most smokers. Study 2 found that under both sets of instructions, smokers reported more sensations when smoking the regular, as compared to the low-nicotine cigarette. Additionally, the sensations of rush, buzz, and high were rated as more pleasant under the pleasant instructions as compared to the unpleasant instructions. Finally, in the pleasant instructions condition, many participants reported having pressed the button to indicate a pleasurable sensation despite having actually experienced that sensation as unpleasant. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the findings of Pomerleau and Pomerleau (Psychopharmacology, 108:460-465, 1992; Tobacco Control, 3:374, 1994) may have been biased by the experimental instructions and cannot be taken as evidence that smoked nicotine is euphoriant to smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-210
Number of pages8
JournalPsychopharmacology
Volume191
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Keywords

  • Euphoriant effect
  • Nicotine
  • Sensation

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