Psychological factors associated with nicotine addiction in college students

Medical Thesis

This descriptive study features the analysis of several psychological self assesment scales linking them to the NDSS (Nicotine Dependence Syndrome Scale).
Dopamine circuit

Zahíra Quiñones de Monegro

Defended On

April 17, 2017


Background: In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the consumption of tobacco derived products and newer forms of nicotine delivery; thus raising an important public health issue worldwide.

Importance: In the current literature, no studies have considered a global perspective on the psychological factors involved in the building and perpetuation of addiction in college students. Addiction is a multidimensional phenomenon that must be understood from a psychological standpoint in order to identify its underlying causes and develop targeted preventive measures.

Objective: To assess the relationships between psychological factors and nicotine addiction in university students of Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, Santiago campus, Dominican Republic, in January-February 2017.

Methods: An analytical observational study was conducted on 221 university students (150 non-smokers and 71 smokers) in PUCMM, Santiago. The survey was developed through the online platform eSurveycreator. The scales used were: NDSS, HARS, Breve CET-DE, UPPS-P and 3 ad hoc questions to measure the variable of Harm Perception. For the statistical analysis of the collected data, SPSS 23.0 (Statistical Package for Social Sciences) was used.

Results: Regarding harm perception, 86.42% of participants considered cigarettes to be “severely” or “dangerously” harmful. Whereas for hookah and electronic cigarettes that level of harm was only assigned by 66.52% y 47.96% of students respectively. No participants displayed addiction (Total Addiction score lesser than -1.024 with a mean of -2.684). For the inferential analysis, a randomly corrected sample, equivalent in terms of sex, education and use (59 non-smokers y 51 smokers) was selected from the gross data. Addiction was shown to have a positive correlation (dimensions Drive and Priority) with Anxiety and Depression, as well as a negative correlation (dimension Tolerance) with Anxiety alone. No correlations were found between Addiction and Impulsivity. Smokers were found to be significantly less anxious than non-smokers. No differences were found regarding depression levels between groups. Non-smokers had a significantly higher score than smokers for Sensation Seeking and Positive Urgency on the Impulsivity scale.

Conclusion: The participants of this study showed very peculiar traits. The results differed in many ways from previous studies. These are discussed and interpretations on their meaning and implications are proposed. Moreover, new findings were highlighted regarding the existing relationship between the dimensions of addiction and the psychological factors. Further research will be profitable to the understanding of these results.

Figure illustrating the dopamine pathways in the human brain