Nicotine discrimination in male and female smokers

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1994 Dec;116(4):407-13. doi: 10.1007/BF02247470.


Discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine were evaluated in humans using formal behavioral drug discrimination procedures. Male and female smokers (n = 9 each) were trained on day 1 to reliably discriminate 0 versus 12 micrograms/kg nicotine administered by measured-dose nasal spray. All subjects were able to reach criterion performance (at least 80% correct). Generalization of responding across nicotine doses of 0, 2, 4, 8, and 12 micrograms/kg (approximately 0-0.8 mg for typical subject) was then examined on day 2. Nicotine-appropriate responding was linearly related to dose, and subjects were able to distinguish the smallest dose (2 micrograms/kg) from placebo. Although there were no differences between males and females in behavioral discrimination, subjective effects were correlated with nicotine discrimination in females but not in males. These findings indicate that humans are able to discriminate among low doses of nicotine per se, that males and females may differ in the stimuli used to discriminate nicotine, and that drug discrimination procedures may be more sensitive than traditional subjective effects measures in distinguishing among low doses of nicotine.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Aerosols
  • Nicotine