Menstrual cycle phase effects on nicotine withdrawal and cigarette craving: a review

Nicotine Tob Res. 2006 Oct;8(5):627-38. doi: 10.1080/14622200600910793.


Evidence suggests that women are less likely to quit smoking than are men. This may reflect differences in nicotine dependence and, more specifically perhaps, nicotine withdrawal and craving. However, there is conflicting research on gender differences on the experience of withdrawal and craving. Menstrual cycle effects may moderate this relationship. Given hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, abstinence-related symptoms such as withdrawal and craving may vary as a function of menstrual phase as well. This qualitative review summarizes the modest but expanding body of research in this area. One of the challenges inherent in interpreting this literature is the difficulty in distinguishing withdrawal symptomatology from premenstrual symptomatology. Methodological variation, including limited sample size and possible selection bias, in which several studies finding null effects excluded women with severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder, may explain some of the inconsistent findings across studies. Nonetheless, some of the 13 studies included in this review found heightened experiences of withdrawal or craving within the latter days of the menstrual cycle (i.e., the luteal phase). Further research is necessary to replicate these findings, but they may suggest the need for focused cessation treatment during the luteal phase or quit attempts that are well timed relative to specific menstrual phases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Tobacco / adverse effects*