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Nicotine Withdrawal Occurs in Just 30 Minutes

Edgy symptoms appear faster than many thought, researchers say

TUESDAY, Aug. 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Within about 30 minutes of a smoker's last cigarette, the first signs of nicotine withdrawal appear, a U.S. study finds.

The study included 50 people who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Half of them were told to continue smoking, while the other half were asked to abstain from smoking for four hours. Both groups were tested every 30 minutes for signs of nicotine withdrawal.

After the first half hour, the abstaining smokers reported greater cravings for cigarettes. After one hour, they reported greater anger than the smokers. Within the first three hours, the abstainers showed increases in anxiety, sadness and difficulty concentrating.

Within the first 30 minutes, the abstainers also did more poorly on a task that required sustained attention. Their heart rate also slowed within the first hour -- another symptom of nicotine withdrawal, the study said.

This is the first study to show how early withdrawal symptoms can begin, the researchers said. The findings were published in the current issue of Psychopharmacology.

"This study suggests that the typical smoker begins to feel somewhat out-of-sorts within an hour of his or her last cigarette," study senior author Thomas H. Brandon, director of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute's Tobacco Research & Intervention Program in Tampa, Fla., said in a prepared statement.

"Although they are not yet in the throes of full withdrawal that they would experience after a day without nicotine, they can already perceive that they are not feeling quite right, and that a cigarette would offer temporary relief," Brandon said.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

SOURCE: University of South Florida Health, news release, Aug. 21, 2006
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