Associations between past-month pain and distress intolerance among daily cigarette smokers

Lisa R. Larowe, Samantha G. Farris, Michael J. Zvolensky, Joseph W. Ditre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: A growing body of research indicates that pain is associated with the maintenance of tobacco smoking. Distress intolerance (DI) may play an important role in the link between pain and smoking. The goal of this study was to examine the association between past-month pain status and DI among a sample of daily cigarette smokers. It was hypothesized that smokers who reported past-month pain (vs. those reporting no past-month pain) would have higher perceived DI (i.e., lower scores on the Distress Tolerance Scale [DTS]) and higher physical DI (i.e., shorter persistence during the Breath-Holding Duration Task), and would report greater subjective distress and physical sensations during the breath-holding task. Method: Participants (N = 126) were daily smokers (56.3% male) who attended a baseline session for a larger experimental study on smoking behavior. Participants self-reported the presence and severity of past-month pain and completed two breath-holding duration trials approximately 15 minutes after smoking. Data were cross-sectional in nature. Results: Smokers with past-month pain had lower scores on the DTS relative to smokers without pain. No differences in breath-holding duration were observed. In addition, smokers with past-month pain, relative to those without, reported greater subjective distress and physical sensations during the initial, but not second, breath-holding trial. Conclusions: This is the first study to show that smokers with co-occurring pain may harbor beliefs about their inability to tolerate aversive psychological states, and are more emotionally reactive to physiological provocation (breath-holding task), than smokers without co-occurring pain. DI among smokers with pain may represent one mechanism by which pain contributes to the maintenance of smoking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-789
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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