Early tobacco smoking in adolescents with externalizing disorders: Inferences for reward function

Will M. Aklin, Eric T. Moolchan, David A. Luckenbaugh, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the United States, and 90% of regular smokers initiate smoking before age 18 years. Factors that confer risk for chronic smoking include psychiatric factors, such as externalizing disorders, and potentially related neurobiological substrates, such as reward function. The present study examined the relationship between the externalizing disorders and the temporal progression of smoking among adolescent smokers. Methods: Data were from 64 adolescents who requested smoking cessation treatment and included information on developmental smoking trajectory, number of cigarettes per day, and Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence score. This sample was assessed carefully for psychiatric disorders. Analyses examined the relationships between externalizing psychiatric disorders and smoking trajectory. Results: Adolescents withan externalizing disorder consumed more tobacco in the first 2 years of smoking than those without a disorder. There were no differences in speed of progression between groups, which may index a distinct functional pattern of reward systems that confers vulnerability for tobacco dependence. Discussion: These data are discussed in terms of potential predictors of early smoking behavior that can inform interventions for adolescents with externalizing behaviors and tobacco dependence. They also provide some hypotheses for how the development of chronic smoking can be influenced by specific patterns of reward responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-755
Number of pages6
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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