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Psychopharmacol Bull. 2003 Winter;37(1):90-5.

Smoking abstinence impairs time estimation accuracy in cigarette smokers.

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Department of Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA.


Time estimation is used as an index of attention processes and may be sensitive to self-administration and withdrawal of psychoactive drugs such as nicotine, the primary addictive ingredient in tobacco. To test this hypothesis, 22 nonsmokers (12 male, 10 female) and 20 daily cigarette smokers (12 male, 8 female) were asked to estimate the duration of a 45-second period of time in a laboratory setting. Smokers participated in two sessions: once after smoking ad-lib and once after objectively confirmed 24-hour smoking abstinence. In smokers, time estimation accuracy was impaired after smoking abstinence compared to accuracy after ad-lib smoking (P<.01). Relative to nonsmokers, smokers' time estimation accuracy differed significantly after the abstinence period only (P=.05). Smokers reported feeling more stressed and unable to focus after abstinence relative to nonsmokers (P<.05). No gender differences were observed on any outcome measures. These results suggest that, in a controlled laboratory setting, smoking abstinence has a negative impact on time perception, which may contribute to the performance decrements and discomfort that smokers report during an attempt to quit.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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