Reinforcing and other behavioral effects of nicotine

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Winter 1981;5(4):487-95. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(81)90019-1.


Published findings of intravenous nicotine self-injection indicate that the reinforcing properties of nicotine are weak when the drug is made available according to continuous reinforcement (CRF) or fixed-ratio (FR) schedules. CRF self-injection rates are generally only 2-3 times saline control levels and self-injection frequency is largely insensitive to changes in unit dose. In contrast, drugs of the psychomotor stimulant, opiate, and sedative-hypnotic classes, with similar pharmacokinetic parameters, maintain much higher self-injection rates and show systematic changes in rate with unit dose variations. Recent studies using interval and second-order schedules of nicotine presentation have been more successful in maintaining higher rates of self-administration behavior. Systematic dose-response functions have also been found under these conditions. Food-deprivation, species and strain differences, circadian rhythms, and duration of exposure to the drug also appear to be important variables in determining self-injection rate. Finally, the rapid development of tolerance to the effects of nicotine may account for changes in the pattern of self-administration within daily sessions and the differential sensitivity of those patterns to nicotine pretreatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement, Psychology / drug effects*
  • Self Administration
  • Self Stimulation


  • Nicotine