Sunday, February 2, 2014

Aggression & Nicotine

Nicotine may reduce levels of aggression.

Despite the fact smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the United States, resulting in 400,000 deaths annually, according to the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP), more than 3,000 people begin smoking every day. Ninety percent of that number includes adolescents or young adults. The reasons for smoking have to do with nicotine's effect on brain chemicals, which affects thoughts, emotions and even behaviors.

Animal Aggression

Nicotine retards the biting response in squirrel monkeys.

In a study conducted by A.P. Silverman of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd., rats given 25 ml of nicotine per kg of body weight showed a significant lapse in aggression. Similarly, in a study conducted by Grace S. Emley and Ronald R. Hutchinson of the Foundation for Behavioral Research, nicotine was shown to retard the biting response in squirrel monkeys.

Human Aggression

This positive effect on aggression was duplicated in a human study conducted by D.R. Cherek of the Psychiatry Research Unit at Louisiana State University. Human test subjects were given the choice of an aggressive response, resulting in money withdrawn or white noise administered to another person (fictitious), or a non-aggressive response, resulting in money awarded. That both forms of aggressive responses reduced significantly after nicotine was administered suggests an aggression retarding effect.

Male vs. Female Aggression

Women may benefit from nicotine more than men in regard to aggression.

In a study led by Sandra File of King's College, and presented to the British Pharmacological Society in July 2000, it is suggested that women benefit more from nicotine than men, in regard to stress and aggression levels. Male and female test subjects were given nicotine or a placebo via nicotine inhaler before being asked to complete a mathematics exam. While male aggression and anxiety levels showed a marked increase after the exam, with or without the nicotine, female subjects showed essentially no rise in aggression/anxiety when administered nicotine.

Nicotine, Aggression and Hypertension

According to a study conducted by C. Perini, F.B. Muller and F.R. Buhler of the Department of Medicine and Research in Basel, Switzerland, it is suggested that "suppressed aggression accelerates early development of essential hypertension." Knowing this, it is little wonder that Emley and Hutchinson's study of spider monkeys revealed that chronic nicotine consumption resulted in lower blood pressure levels, thereby reducing the risk of essential hypertension development.

More to Consider

While several studies support the notion that nicotine consumption reduces aggression, it is worth noting that the vast majority of smokers are prone to extraversion, perfectionism and constitutional anxiety, according to David M. Warburton, author of "Addiction Controversies." What this means is that the effects of nicotine may be subjective and personality-dependent as opposed to uniform.

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