Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Nicotine Inhalation and Suicide: Clinical Correlates and Behavioral Mechanisms.

Swann AC, Graham DP, Wilkinson AV, Kosten TR. Nicotine Inhalation and Suicide: Clinical Correlates and Behavioral Mechanisms. The American journal on addictions. 2021 Jul 1; 30(4):316-329.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Extensive evidence links smoking and suicide independently of psychiatric diagnoses, but there are questions about the pathophysiology and specificity of this relationship. We examined characteristics of this linkage to identify potential transdiagnostic mechanisms in suicide and its prevention. METHODS: We reviewed literature that associated suicide with smoking and e-cigarettes, including the temporal sequence of smoking and suicide risk and their shared behavioral risk factors of sensitization and impulsivity. RESULTS: Smoking is associated with increased suicide across psychiatric diagnoses and in the general population, proportionately to the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Rapid nicotine uptake into the brain through inhalation of conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette), or even second-hand smoke can facilitate long-term sensitization and short-term impulsivity. Both impair action regulation and predispose to negative affect, continued smoking, and suicidal behavior. Intermittent hypoxia, induced by cigarettes or e-cigarettes, synergistically promotes impulsivity and sensitization, exacerbating suicidality. Two other shared behavioral risks also develop negative urgency (combined impulsivity and negative affect) and cross-sensitization to stressors or to other addictive stimuli. Finally, early smoking onset, promoted by e-cigarettes in never-smokers, increases subsequent suicide risk. CONCLUSION AND SCIENTIFIC SIGNIFICANCE: Prevention or cessation of nicotine inhalation can strategically prevent suicidality and other potentially lethal behavior regardless of psychiatric diagnoses. Medications for reducing smoking and suicidality, especially in younger smokers, should consider the neurobehavioral mechanisms for acute impulsivity and longer-term sensitization, potentially modulated more effectively through glutamate antagonism rather than nicotine substitution. (Am J Addict 2021;30:316-329).

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.