Chronic caffeine exposure potentiates nicotine self-administration in rats

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999 Mar;142(4):327-33. doi: 10.1007/s002130050896.


The prevalence of tobacco smoking and coffee drinking place nicotine and caffeine among the most used licit drugs in many societies and their consumption is often characterised by concurrent use. The pharmacological basis for any putative interaction between these drugs remains unclear. Epidemiological reports support anecdotal evidence, which suggests that smokers consume caffeine to enhance the euphoric effects of nicotine. The aim of the present experiment was to examine effects of chronic exposure to caffeine on responding maintained by nicotine. Sprague-Dawley rats consuming caffeine (approximately 150-180 mg/kg per day) in their drinking water for 7 days prior to the beginning and throughout behavioural testing acquired intravenous nicotine self-administration (0.03 mg/kg per infusion) more rapidly than did controls. In a cross-over design, exclusion of caffeine brought levels of nicotine self-administration back to baseline, while adding caffeine to the drinking water of control rats increased responding maintained by nicotine over 90%. These findings strongly suggest that caffeine can potentiate the reinforcing properties of nicotine, thus highlighting the importance of environmental factors in shaping and maintaining tobacco smoking.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Drug Synergism
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Self Administration


  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Dopamine