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Alcohol. 2000 May;21(1):37-47.

Peripheral involvement in nicotine-induced enhancement of ethanol intake.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology, Göteborg University, Sweden.


It is a well-known fact that a large percentage of alcoholics smoke, and in the experimental rat, intermittent nicotine administration enhances ethanol intake and ethanol preference in a free-choice situation between 6% (v/v) ethanol and water. The present study focuses on the possible involvement of central and/or peripheral nicotine acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) in nicotine-induced sensitization to dopamine-related behavioral effects of ethanol. Wistar rats drinking less than 60% of their total daily fluid from a 6% ethanol solution were used in the study. Nicotine, vehicle, mecamylamine, hexamethonium, mecamylamine+nicotine, and hexamethonium+nicotine were administered subchronically for 15 days. All groups, except the vehicle pre-treated group, markedly increased their ethanol preference to approximately 80%, as well as their ethanol intake. NMRI mice received the same treatments for 10 days, after which ethanol (2.5 g/kg, intraperitoneal (i.p.)) was given acutely and locomotor activity was recorded. Ethanol-induced locomotor stimulation was enhanced in most groups, as compared to the vehicle pre-treated group. Administration of quarternary autonomic drugs to ethanol high-preferring rats (hexamethonium, methscopolamine, sotalol and phentolamine) according to different acute and chronic treatment protocols indicated that the enhanced ethanol intake may involve increased ganglionic and/or peripheral muscarinic neurotransmission. Taken together, the above results indicate that peripheral mechanisms may be involved in the enhancement of dopamine-related behavioral effects of ethanol observed after subchronic intermittent treatment with nicotinic drugs.

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