Asymmetric generalization between the discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine and cocaine

Behav Pharmacol. 1999 Nov;10(6-7):647-56. doi: 10.1097/00008877-199911000-00011.


The discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine and cocaine were studied, alone and in combination, in rats. Two sets of rats were trained to press one lever when injected intraperitoneally (i.p.) with either nicotine (0.1 mg/kg = 0.6 micromol/kg, Set 1) or cocaine (8.9 mg/kg base = 29.4 micromol/kg, Set 2), and another lever when injected with saline. Rats learned to discriminate drug from saline, and maintained discriminative control throughout the study (at > 85% drug-appropriate responding). In accordance with most previous findings, cocaine only partially substituted for nicotine (maximum = 41% nicotine-lever responding). The nicotinic agonist, nornicotine, produced dose-related, near-full substitution for nicotine (maximum = 76% nicotine-lever responding), whereas the peripherally acting nicotinic agonist, methylcarbamylcholine, did not substitute for nicotine. The muscarinic receptor agonist pilocarpine also failed to substitute for nicotine. However, in the cocaine-trained rats, nicotine substituted fully for cocaine in a dose-dependent manner, demonstrating that cross-generalization between the two drugs is not symmetrical. Finally, administration of each drug as a pre-treatment to the other yielded inconsistent increases in each drug's discriminative stimulus effects. The results are congruent with the view that the discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine and cocaine share common features, but the asymmetric pattern of cross-generalization and the interactions revealed in the combination tests also suggest that there are important differences between them.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Generalization, Stimulus / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine