CB1 receptor antagonists for the treatment of nicotine addiction

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005 Jun;81(2):387-95. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2005.01.024.


Tobacco smoking is the largest cause of avoidable death and disease in developed countries. It is now viewed as a complex bio-psycho-social problem for which effective pharmacological treatments are needed. Nicotine is considered to be the primary compound of tobacco smoke that establishes and maintains tobacco dependence. The addictive effect of nicotine is mediated by activation of the mesolimbic system and the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Recently, the existence of a specific functional interaction between nicotine and the endocannabinoid system has been reported. Co-administration of sub-threshold doses of a cannabinoid agonist and nicotine produces rewarding effects and chronic nicotine treatment increases endocannabinoid levels in limbic regions. The CB1 receptor plays a key role in this interaction. CB1 knockout mice are less sensitive to the motivational effects of nicotine although this depends on the experimental model. The selective CB1 antagonist, rimonabant (SR141716), reduces nicotine self-administration and nicotine-seeking behavior induced by conditioned cues in rats. Rimonabant appears to reduce nicotine addiction by attenuating the hyperactivation of the endocannabinoid system and the mesolimbic dopaminergic neuronal pathway. Rimonabant may be considered as a potential alternative to the current substitutive treatments of nicotine addiction and may offer a new hope for the treatment of smokers who wish to quit.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy*


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine