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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Mar;184(3-4):482-93. Epub 2005 Jul 7.

Dose, duration, and pattern of nicotine administration as determinants of behavioral dependence in rats.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 980613, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.

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  • Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Mar;184(3-4):652.



Relatively little is known about the role of dose, duration, and pattern of nicotine exposure in the development of dependence. Disruption of learned behavior during antagonist-precipitated withdrawal can be a sensitive, quantitative measure of behavioral dependence.


The present study sought to determine whether behavioral dependence upon nicotine could be induced in rats and, if so, what exposure conditions were essential for inducing it. Our primary focus was on whether continuous exposure over several days was necessary to produce dependence.


Male Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to lever press under fixed-ratio 10 schedules of food reinforcement during daily, 15-min experimental sessions. Nicotine was then administered s.c. via osmotic minipumps that delivered various nicotine dosage regimens, some including 24-h nicotine-free periods, to manipulate pattern of exposure. The presence of dependence was tested with challenges with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist, mecamylamine, or during spontaneous withdrawal.


After 7 days of 3, 6, and 12 mg kg(-1) day(-1) nicotine administration, response rates were significantly reduced in nicotinized, but not in saline-treated rats following mecamylamine challenges. Subsequent studies demonstrated that 4 days, but not 3 days, of cumulative 3 mg kg(-1) day(-1) nicotine administration was sufficient to induce dependence. The induction of dependence could be prevented by imposing a nicotine-free period between the first and second days during these 4-day regimens but not at other times.


Behavioral dependence upon nicotine can be induced in the rat, and its induction is dependent upon its cumulative duration and pattern of exposure suggesting that tobacco dependencies could be controlled by similar determinants.

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