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Nicotine Tob Res. 2007 Nov;9 Suppl 4:S523-36. doi: 10.1080/14622200701685039.

Smoking to self-medicate attentional and emotional dysfunctions.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, D402 Medical Sciences I, Irvine, California 92697-1674, USA.


Individuals with attentional and emotional dysfunctions are most at risk for smoking initiation and subsequent nicotine addiction. This article presents converging findings from human behavioral research, brain imaging, and basic neuroscience on smoking as self-medication for attentional and emotional dysfunctions. Nicotine and other tobacco constituents have significant effects on neural circuitry underlying the regulation of attention and affect. Age, sex, early environment, and exposure to other drugs have been identified as important factors that moderate both the effects of nicotine on brain circuitry and behavior and the risk for smoking initiation. Findings also suggest that the effects of smoking differ depending on whether smoking is used to regulate attention or affect. Individual differences in the reinforcement processes underlying tobacco use have implications for the development of tailored smoking cessation programs and prevention strategies that include early treatment of attentional and emotional dysfunctions.

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