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Smoking makes you more angry { February 19 2004 }

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Smoking 'makes you more angry'
Date: February 19 2004

People who get angry easily may be more likely to become addicted to smoking, according to a new study.

Nicotine causes dramatic bursts of activity in certain brain areas, but only in people prone to anger and aggression, say American researchers.

It is the first evidence that people with certain personality traits may be more likely to take up smoking and become hooked.

It might also explain why some people find it harder than others to give up the deadly habit.

Researchers, led by psychiatrist Steven Potkin at the University of California, Irvine, studied 86 people wearing nicotine patches.

They were given tasks, such as playing video games, to characterise their personality type.

Their brain activity was monitored before and after receiving low or high dose nicotine patches, or a fake patch.

The scientists found that the drug stimulated parts of the brains of those with aggressive tendencies, even at low doses.

The same was true for people who did not usually smoke.

But more relaxed people did not show the same brain activity in response to the nicotine.

At the same time, the nicotine actually made the angry personalities more aggressive.

Dr Potkin said: "They may smoke to feel better, but they don't feel better."

Scientists suggested that the findings could explain why many teenagers take up smoking, at a time when hormonal changes can lead to increased feelings of anxiety or aggression.

But more research is needed to prove the links between aggression and smoking addiction, scientists said.

"We're looking for the variety of things that could make people likely to smoke, and this could be one of them," said William Corrigall of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Other factors, such as growing up with smokers, and the circumstances in which people try to give up the habit, could also affect why people become so addicted to nicotine.

If doctors could detect those most at risk of becoming addicted after just a first few cigarettes, they could target them with smoking prevention programmes, the scientists said.


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