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Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Jun;15(6):1141-5. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts224. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Possible reinforcement enhancing effects of bupropion during initial smoking abstinence.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



Due to a drop in nicotine, smoking cessation may attenuate reinforcement from sensory stimuli unrelated to nicotine intake. Recent rodent research suggests that bupropion may reverse this attenuation, perhaps helping explain its efficacy in aiding cessation.


In a within-subjects, crossover study, smokers responded on a simple computer task for brief music reward available on a progressive ratio 50% schedule. Testing was done on three separate occasions: after ad lib smoking during prequit baseline and on the first day of two brief quit attempts while taking bupropion or placebo, in counter-balanced order. Number of operant responses was the measure of reinforcement. To more clearly assess abstinence and medication effects, those meeting 24-hr abstinence criteria (CO < 5 ppm; n = 5) or clearly failing to abstain (CO > 10 ppm; n = 5) during both medication conditions were compared.


Among abstainers, repeated measures ANOVA showed that reinforced responding decreased by nearly 50% from baseline after quitting on placebo (p = .03), while responding after quitting on bupropion was similar to that during baseline (-17%; p = .20). In contrast, those unable to abstain showed virtually identical reinforced responding due to either medication or baseline.


These exploratory findings confirm that responding for a reward unrelated to smoking decreases after abstinence and are consistent with animal research showing bupropion effects on enhancing reinforced responding.

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