Nicotine withdrawal woes shown to be similar to inflammatory response

University Park, Pa. --- In a small study conducted at Penn State, researchers have shown, for the first time, that heavy or moderate smokers who stop smoking have symptoms similar to those experienced by patients undergoing an inflammatory response suggesting that anti-inflammatory medication might ease some nicotine withdrawal woes.

Dr. Elizabeth Corwin, assistant professor in the school of nursing and the Intercollege Physiology Program, says, "Our research shows that nicotine withdrawal is a significant physical as well as psychological stressor that impacts multiple systems of the body, including the immune system. If we can relieve some negative symptoms including depression by reducing the inflammatory response, we may be able to increase the likelihood that heavy or moderate smokers can successfully quit."

The study, which was conducted by Corwin and Dr. Laura Klein, assistant professor of biobehavioral health, was presented (today) Feb. 21, by Klein in a poster at the meeting of the Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco in Savannah, Georgia. The poster is titled, "Sickness Behavior and Cytokine Responses in Subjects During Withdrawal from Nicotine."

Klein explains that smokers often fail multiple attempts to quit, in part, because of the unpleasant symptoms that accompany nicotine withdrawal, including depression, fatigue, muscle aches and appetite changes. Similar unpleasant symptoms accompany acute and chronic illness and these symptoms are known to result from elevated levels of cytokines, which are produced by white blood cells in response to inflammation. The two Penn State researchers decided to see if cytokines could also be linked to the same symptoms in smokers who stop smoking.

Blood samples from 20 heavy or moderate smokers, ages 18 to 35, were taken while they were smoking freely and after they had stopped smoking for 24 hours. Blood samples were also taken from 22 non-smokers for comparison. The same groups

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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