Nicotine Pharmacodynamics: Some Unresolved Issues

  1. Greg Bock Organizer and
  2. Joan Marsh
  1. Robert J. West

Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470513965.ch12

Ciba Foundation Symposium 152 - The Biology of Nicotine Dependence

Ciba Foundation Symposium 152 - The Biology of Nicotine Dependence

How to Cite

West, R. J. (2007) Nicotine Pharmacodynamics: Some Unresolved Issues, in Ciba Foundation Symposium 152 - The Biology of Nicotine Dependence (eds G. Bock and J. Marsh), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470513965.ch12

Author Information

  1. Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway & Bedford New College, Egham Hill, Egham, Surrey TW20 OEX, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471926887

Online ISBN: 9780470513965



  • nicotine pharmacodynamics;
  • physiological tolerance;
  • stimulant actions;
  • biphasic effects;
  • nicotine dependence


This paper focuses on some issues in the field of nicotine pharmacodynamics in which widely held suppositions have outstripped the supporting evidence. It considers how far the view that nicotine acts as a stimulant in low doses and as a sedative in higher doses is supported by the data and concludes that within the range of doses ingested by cigarette smokers, only stimulant actions have been reliably observed. It examines evidence for the view that nicotine improves ability to sustain attention and concludes that a positive effect of nicotine not attributable to relief of a withdrawal deficit has yet to be demonstrated. Finally, it considers the issue of physiological tolerance and argues that ideas concerning a role for chronic tolerance in nicotine dependence have yet to be supported empirically. Despite advances in our understanding of nicotine's effects in recent years there is still much work to be carried out before fundamental issues underlying its addictive potential can be resolved.