Dr. Dean

Nicotine: An Upper And A Downer?

Posting Date: 07/29/1999

In medical school, the first lecture you hear in pharmacology class is on nicotine. It is a weird drug. Some people say it picks them up, others says it calms them down. And the more we study it, the more we discover about its complexity.

So I thought this item in American Family Physician was interesting - it says that men may smoke to control their emotions.

A research team from the University of California, Irvine, studied 25 men and 25 women, 18-42 years of age, and recorded their moods and smoking behavior every 20 minutes for 48 hours.

Then they looked at how the subjects' emotions affected their urge to smoke, whether it caused them to smoke, and how smoking affected their emotions.

Get this - they found that smoking reduced anger in men who were often angry. So it kind of worked like a sedative.

But men were also more likely to smoke in response to fatigue and sadness - so it also functioned like an upper.

Women, on the other hand, experienced no change in emotion after smoking. What do we make of that? This is why pharmacologists find nicotine such an interesting drug.

American Family Physician, Vol. 60, No. 1, July 1999