Angry People "Born to Smoke"

Study: Take a group of people and, after standardized personality testing, divide them into two groups: a "high" hostile group characterized by more anger, aggression and anxiety as compared to a "low" hostile group. Include smokers and nonsmokers in both the "high" and the "low" hostile groups.

Ask everyone to wear nicotine patches and then give them all brain scans. Obtain some interesting results. Nicotine triggered increased brain activity in the "high" hostile group -- whether they were smokers or not. (The "high" hostile smokers did need more nicotine to achieve a response comparable to the "high" hostile nonsmokers.) By contrast, there were no metabolic changes in the brain cells of the low-hostility participants. The results suggest that "high" hostile people respond to nicotine more than "low" hostile people.

Conclusion: In people who have aggressive personalities, nicotine triggers significant brain activity in the areas that help control social response, thinking and planning.

Comment: Does this mean that hostile people are more likely to start smoking in the first place and can be expected to have a harder time if they then decide to quit smoking?

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

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