Frontlines | Waiting Out Addiction

Erica P. Johnson

Recent research shows that for smokers who are trying to quit, the day seems to pass slowly. Pennsylvania State University researchers found that time perception was impaired for these people, suggesting both a decrease in performance and an increase in discomfort for abstainers.1

Nonpuffers and daily smokers, who went 24 hours without inhaling, were asked to estimate how much time had elapsed during a 45-second span. To the abstaining smokers, time seemed to slow down without nicotine; they perceived the interval to be about 50% longer. Study codirector Laura Cousino Klein, assistant professor of biobehavioral health, says that she cannot speculate on the mechanism responsible, although "time estimation is a very acute behavioral index of stress." Immune messengers such as cytokines could be related to the passage of time. "When people are sick, time slows down; we think ... [time perception...

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