The acquisition of low-dose (0.25 mg/kg/infusion) intravenous cocaine self-administration was measured in rats that had received nine daily injections of amphetamine (1.0 mg/kg, IP), nicotine (0.6 mg/kg base weight, SC) or vehicle. For control rats, the acquisition of self-administration was gradual with the number of responses per 2 h daily test session increasing between days 3 and 9. By comparison, rats preexposed with amphetamine and nicotine demonstrated elevated response means during the early days of testing, suggesting more rapid acquisition. All groups eventually reached similar asymptotic levels of responding. The enhanced responding observed during the early days of testing in the rats preexposed with amphetamine and nicotine was due to an increased number of subjects that reliably self-administered cocaine. Thus, the rats preexposed with amphetamine and nicotine seemed predisposed to the reinforcing effects of cocaine. In contrast to the self-administration data, preexposure to nicotine failed to sensitize rats to the locomotor activating effects of cocaine. In fact, the same preexposure regimen appeared to produce tolerance to this effect of cocaine. These data give evidence that different mechanisms may mediate sensitization to the reinforcing and locomotor activating effects of cocaine.