The latency to the onset of nicotine withdrawal: a test of the sensitization-homeostasis theory

Addict Behav. 2008 Sep;33(9):1148-53. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2008.04.011. Epub 2008 May 8.


The latency to withdrawal (LTW) is the expired time between the last cigarette and when the smoker feels the need to smoke again. The sensitization-homeostasis theory predicts that the LTW is inversely related to the frequency and duration of smoking such that more frequent cigarette consumption and a longer history of tobacco use will be associated with a shorter LTW. An anonymous cross-sectional survey of 1055 10th and 11th grade students of mixed ethnicity was conducted in two schools using self-completed questionnaires. Participants were asked "After you have smoked a cigarette, how long can you go before you feel you need to smoke again?" Of 162 current smokers, 73.5% reported a regular need to smoke and a LTW. Reported values for the LTW ranged from .05 h to "3 weeks or more." Monthly cigarette consumption ranged from 1 to 895. The LTW correlated inversely with monthly cigarette consumption (Kendall's tau b=-.53, P<.001) and the duration of smoking (Kendall's tau b=-.25, P<.001) as predicted by the sensitization-homeostasis theory.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Nicotinic Agonists / adverse effects*
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine