Alcohol and nicotine, in the form of tobacco, are commonly co-abused. Nicotinic receptors also have been implicated in alcohol action. We designed the present study to examine the possible involvement of nicotinic receptors in alcohol self-administration.
Methods and Results:
Pretreatment with lower doses (0.1–0.4 mg/kg) of nicotine, administered acutely or chronically, did not affect alcohol consumption, whereas a higher dose (0.8 mg/kg) initially suppressed alcohol consumption but stimulated alcohol consumption on repeated treatment. We observed the same pattern of nicotine effects on alcohol self-administration using an operant procedure. A dose of 0.8 mg/kg of nicotine initially suppressed operant responding for alcohol. Such suppression of alcohol self-administration was more pronounced during the first 20 min of the 60 min operant session. Responding for alcohol in the nicotine treated group, however, was significantly increased above the saline treated group by the 5th day of treatment. Mecamylamine, a noncompetitive nicotinic receptor antagonist, reduced alcohol consumption, whereas dihydro-β-erythroidine (DHβE), a competitive nicotinic receptor antagonist, did not modify alcohol consumption.
The stimulation of alcohol intake induced by nicotine treatment and the suppression of alcohol intake induced by mecamylamine provide evidence for the involvement of nicotinic receptors in alcohol consumption and/or self-administration. The failure of DHβE to reduce alcohol consumption, however, suggests that ethanol-nicotine interaction is mediated by other nicotinic receptor subtypes rather than α4β2 receptor subtype, or that mecamylamine acts through a nonnicotinic mechanism.