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Prog Clin Biol Res. 1984;169:333-44.

Effects of cigarette smoking on human aggressive behavior.


Nicotine administered by smoking experimental cigarettes produced decreases in two types of aggressive responses elicited by low and high frequency subtractions of money which were attributed to another "person". The suppressing effects of smoking different doses of nicotine on aggressive responses was dose-dependent, in that smoking the high dose of nicotine produced more suppression than smoking the low dose. The ostensible subtraction of money from another "person", the more aggressive response option available to research subjects, was generally more sensitive to the suppressing effects of nicotine than aggressive noise delivery responses. Although this effect could be attributed to another constituent of tobacco, the dose-dependent effect observed with these cigarettes which contained the same amount of tar suggest the effects are due to nicotine. The relatively selective suppression of aggressive behavior observed in humans in the present study is highly consistent with the effects of nicotine observed in a number of infrahuman species. Nicotine has been found to suppress aggressive behavior in ants (Kostowski 1968), rats (Silverman 1971), and cats (Berntson et. al. 1976). In addition, nicotine has been observed to suppress shock elicited fighting in rats (Driscoll, Baettig 1981; Rodgers 1979; Waldbillig 1980) as well as shock elicited biting in monkeys (Hutchinson, Emley 1973). The importance of determining specificity of drug action on aggressive behavior has been repeatedly emphasized in the field of behavioral pharmacology (Sidman 1959; Cook, Kelleher 1963; Thompson, Boren 1977; Miczek, Krsiak 1979). One method employed to evaluate drug specificity and identify a general non-specific excitatory or depressant drug effect is to determine the drug effect on more than one response option which is available to the subject (Sidman 1959). In this study, the same doses of nicotine which suppressed aggressive responding increased nonaggressive monetary reinforcement responses. This indicates that the suppressing effects of nicotine on human aggressive responses was not due to a non-specific and generalized depression action. This selective action is similar to that observed by Hutchinson and Emley (1973) when they observed that nicotine decreased shock-elicited biting in monkeys while increasing anticipatory manual responses preceding shock. The highly selective and specific suppressing effect of nicotine on aggressive behavior provides a consistent observation in species ranging from insects to man.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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