Effect of paroxetine on physiological response to stress and smoking

Michael Kotlyar, Mustafa Al'Absi, Paul Thuras, John P. Vuchetich, David E. Adson, April L. Nowack, Dorothy K. Hatsukami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Smokers often smoke during stressful events, which leads to large increases in cardiovascular measures such as blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR). Because exaggerated cardiovascular response to stress is associated with cardiovascular disease risk, this study examined paroxetine's effect on the physiological response to combining stress and smoking. METHODS: Sixty-two participants completed this randomized, double-blind, crossover study in which BP, HR, plasma epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol concentrations were measured at rest, while smoking, and during a speech and math task. Laboratory sessions occurred after 1 month of paroxetine and after 1 month of placebo. RESULTS: Significant increases occurred for all measures (except cortisol) during smoking, with further increases occurring during the speech task (time effect, p < .001). After 1 month of paroxetine, norepinephrine and HR values were lower and cortisol values were higher (versus placebo) throughout the laboratory session (treatment effect, p < .001). Treatment × time effects were observed for BP and HR (all, p < .01). For systolic and diastolic BP, a smaller increase (from baseline to measures during speech) was observed after paroxetine compared with placebo (both, p < .006). In both measures, the increase in response to smoking was similar for both treatments; however, the further increase during the speech was smaller when taking paroxetine (versus placebo). CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that paroxetine affects physiological response to stress in smokers. Further research is needed to determine the impact of these results on cardiovascular health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-243
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • blood pressure
  • catecholamines
  • heart rate
  • mental stress
  • paroxetine
  • smoking

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