Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Thomas Brandon, Ph.D.


Tobacco, Nicotine, Abstinence, Heart rate, Vigilance, Attentional bias, Self-report


Despite the large volume of research on tobacco withdrawal, the vast majority of studies have focused on the onset and remission of symptoms over the course of several days and weeks, with the earliest assessment periods occurring the day after cessation. To date, there has been no systematic study of the very early time course of the tobacco withdrawal syndrome, despite its obvious relevance to the maintenance of both smoking and postcessation abstinence. The published literature contains a range of estimates about the early appearance of withdrawal symptoms, but without reference to empirical data. The main objective of the current study was to conduct a comprehensive, multimodal assessment of the early time course of the symptoms associated with smoking withdrawal among cigarette smokers. Participants were 50 smokers randomly assigned to either abstain or smoke at their own pace during four hours in the laboratory. Dependent measures included a physiological measure

(resting heart rate); sustained attention (the Rapid Visual Information Processing task; RVIP); selective attention to smoking stimuli (an emotional Stroop task); and self-report (the Wisconsin Smoking Withdrawal Scales; WSWS). After baseline assessment, participants were assigned to the two conditions and the dependent measures were collected every 30 minutes. Generalized Estimating Equations (GEEs) revealed that abstinent participants displayed greater withdrawal than continuing smokers on all measures with the exception of the Stroop task. Statistically significant differences in withdrawal were found within 60 minutes on heart rate, within 30 minutes on the RVIP, and between 30 minutes and 180 minutes postcessation on the various subscales of the WSWS. These findings provide the first evidence of the early time course of tobacco withdrawal symptoms, although further research is needed to distinguish withdrawal effects from drug offset effects. Implications for the understandi

ng the maintenance of daily smoking and for the treatment of tobacco dependence are discussed.