Explaining the stress-inducing effects of nicotine to cigarette smokers

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2012 Mar;27(2):150-5. doi: 10.1002/hup.1247.


Aims: To explain how nicotine dependency causes mood fluctuation and increases daily stress.

Methods: Prospective studies show that taking-up smoking leads to higher stress and depression. Cross-sectional studies show that adult smokers report more irritability, stress and depression than non-smokers. Prospective studies show that smoking cessation leads to enduring mood gains. The adverse mood effects of nicotine dependency are explained by the deprivation reversal model. In between cigarettes, most smokers experience subtle abstinence symptoms, and cumulatively these can increase everyday stress. Hence, adolescents who take up smoking become more stressed, and quitting reduces stress. An explanatory leaflet to explain this model was empirically assessed with tobacco smokers.

Results: In a cohort study of 82 cigarette smokers, knowledge levels were significantly enhanced by the explanatory leaflet, and this understanding was maintained 1 week later. Hence, normal cigarette smokers can understand the adverse mood consequences of nicotine addiction. The information leaflet could prove useful for tobacco-education packages in schools, and smoking-cessation packages with adults.

Conclusions: The deprivation reversal model can be easily described using a simple leaflet. It explains how nicotine dependency can cause mood fluctuation, and outlines the psychological benefits of quitting.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / chemically induced
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Nicotine