Greater sensitivity to subjective effects of nicotine in nonsmokers high in sensation seeking

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2000 Nov;8(4):462-71. doi: 10.1037//1064-1297.8.4.462.


The personality characteristic of sensation seeking is associated with risk of smoking, perhaps because of greater initial sensitivity to nicotine. Young healthy nonsmokers (N = 37) were administered 0, 10, and 20 microg/kg nicotine by nasal spray in 3 separate sessions, and subjective responses were assessed. Sensation-Seeking Scale (SSS) scores were then correlated with these responses. A comparison group of smokers (N = 55) was included to determine whether sensation seeking was associated specifically with initial sensitivity to nicotine or with general sensitivity regardless of past nicotine exposure. SSS subscales, particularly Experience Seeking and Disinhibition, were correlated with subjective responses to nicotine in nonsmokers but generally not in smokers. These findings indicate that sensation seeking is associated with greater initial sensitivity to nicotine's subjective effects and may provide directions for further study of individual-differences characteristics that predispose people to the risk of becoming smokers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality*
  • Sensation
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Smoking / psychology*


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Nicotine