Alterations in the stress response and endogenous pain regulation mechanisms may contribute directly and indirectly to maintenance of nicotine dependence and relapse. We examined the extent to which nicotine dependence alters endogenous pain regulatory systems, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, cardiovascular activity, and stress-induced analgesia. Smokers and nonsmokers attended a laboratory session that included assessment of hormonal and cardiovascular responses to stress. Smokers smoked at their regular rate prior to the session. The hand cold pressor and heat thermal pain tests were completed twice, once after acute stress (public speaking and math tasks) and the other after rest. While smokers and nonsmokers exhibited significant hormonal and cardiovascular responses to stress, smokers exhibited blunted stress responses relative to nonsmokers. They also exhibited diminished stress-induced analgesia. Results demonstrate altered stress response and diminished stress-induced analgesia among chronic smokers, and suggest that these dysregulated physiological responding may contribute to altered endogenous pain regulation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part by a grant to the first author from the National Institute of Health ( R01DA016351 and R01DA027232 ). We thank Angie Harjue, Elizabeth Ford, and Barbara Gay for assistance with data collection and management.
- Stress-induced analgesia
- Tobacco dependence