Chronic smoking may alter physiological systems involved in the stress response. This study was designed to examine the effects of ad libitum smoking and abstinence on adrenocortical and cardiovascular responses to acute psychological stress in dependent cigarette smokers. We evaluated differences among abstinent smokers, smokers who continued to smoke at their normal rate, and nonsmokers in salivary cortisol concentrations, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), and mood reports. Measurements were obtained during rest and in response to acute psychological stress (public speaking) in one session (stress session) and during continuous rest in a control session. Thirty-eight smokers (21 women) and 32 nonsmokers (18 women) participated. Smokers were assigned to either abstain from smoking the night prior to and the day of each session, or to continue smoking at their normal rate before each session. All groups showed significant stress-induced changes in BP and HR. Smokers, regardless of their assigned condition, showed attenuated systolic BP responses to the public-speaking stressor when compared to nonsmokers. While resting cortisol levels were greater among smokers than nonsmokers, no cortisol response to the acute stressor was demonstrated in either ad libitum or abstinent smokers. These results indicate that chronic smoking diminishes adrenocortical and cardiovascular responses to stress, and that short-term abstinence does not correct these alterations.
- Attenuated response
- Psychological stress