Donepezil, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, attenuates nicotine self-administration and reinstatement of nicotine seeking in rats

Addict Biol. 2014 Jul;19(4):539-51. doi: 10.1111/adb.12014. Epub 2012 Dec 12.


Nicotine craving and cognitive impairments represent core symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and predict relapse in abstinent smokers. Current smoking cessation pharmacotherapies have limited efficacy in preventing relapse and maintaining abstinence during withdrawal. Donepezil is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor that has been shown previously to improve cognition in healthy non-treatment-seeking smokers. However, there are no studies examining the effects of donepezil on nicotine self-administration and/or the reinstatement of nicotine-seeking behavior in rodents. The present experiments were designed to determine the effects of acute donepezil administration on nicotine taking and the reinstatement of nicotine-seeking behavior, an animal model of relapse in abstinent human smokers. Moreover, the effects of acute donepezil administration on sucrose self-administration and sucrose seeking were also investigated in order to determine whether donepezil's effects generalized to other reinforced behaviors. Acute donepezil administration (1.0 or 3.0 mg/kg, i.p.) attenuated nicotine, but not sucrose self-administration maintained on a fixed-ratio 5 schedule of reinforcement. Donepezil administration also dose-dependently attenuated the reinstatement of both nicotine- and sucrose-seeking behaviors. Commonly reported adverse effects of donepezil treatment in humans are nausea and vomiting. However, at doses required to attenuate nicotine self-administration in rodents, no effects of donepezil on nausea/malaise as measured by pica were observed. Collectively, these results indicate that increased extracellular acetylcholine levels are sufficient to attenuate nicotine taking and seeking in rats and that these effects are not due to adverse malaise symptoms such as nausea.

Keywords: Acetylcholine; nicotine addiction; relapse; self-administration; smoking cessation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Cues
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Donepezil
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Indans / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Self Administration
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy*


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Indans
  • Piperidines
  • Sucrose
  • Nicotine
  • Donepezil