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Horm Behav. 2010 Jun;58(1):57-71. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.10.003. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

Hormones, nicotine, and cocaine: clinical studies.

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McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


Nicotine and cocaine each stimulate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and -gonadal axis hormones, and there is increasing evidence that the hormonal milieu may modulate the abuse-related effects of these drugs. This review summarizes some clinical studies of the acute effects of cigarette smoking or IV cocaine on plasma drug and hormone levels and subjective effects ratings. The temporal covariance between these dependent measures was assessed with a rapid (2 min) sampling procedure in nicotine-dependent volunteers or current cocaine users. Cigarette smoking and IV cocaine each stimulated a rapid increase in LH and ACTH, followed by gradual increases in cortisol and DHEA. Positive subjective effects ratings increased immediately after initiation of cigarette smoking or IV cocaine administration. However, in contrast to cocaine's sustained positive effects (<20 min), ratings of "high" and "rush" began to decrease within one or two puffs of a high-nicotine cigarette while nicotine levels were increasing. Peak nicotine levels increased progressively after each of three successive cigarettes smoked at 60 min intervals, but the magnitude of the subjective effects ratings and peak ACTH and cortisol levels diminished. Only DHEA increased consistently after successive cigarettes. The possible influence of neuroactive hormones on nicotine dependence and cocaine abuse and the implications for treatment of these addictive disorders are discussed.

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