Background and objectives: Delivery of a high concentration bolus of nicotine through the arterial circulation is believed to be an important determinant of the addictive, behavioral, and physiologic effects of nicotine. To better understand the pharmacologic features of nicotine with different routes of administration, we measured arterial and venous plasma concentrations of nicotine, cotinine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine after tobacco smoking, intravenous nicotine infusion, and use of a nicotine nasal spray.
Subjects and methods: Arterial and venous blood samples were drawn simultaneously from 12 male smokers. Six subjects received a single dose of 1 mg nicotine nasal spray, and six subjects smoked cigarettes, one puff per minute for 10 minutes. All 12 subjects were administered nicotine as a 30-minute infusion beginning 70 minutes after administration of the nicotine nasal spray or commencement of smoking.
Results: The mean peak arterial plasma concentrations of nicotine (Cmax) after smoking or administration of nicotine nasal spray, or intravenous nicotine averaged twofold those of venous plasma. For nicotine nasal spray, the time to Cmax was much faster for arterial than for venous plasma (median, 5 versus 18 minutes, p < 0.01). Intravenous nicotine produced the greatest increase in plasma epinephrine concentration, although smoking had a greater chronotropic effect. Acute tolerance to the chronotropic effects of nicotine was suggested at pharmacodynamic analysis with venous nicotine concentrations, whereas analysis of arterial concentrations found the opposite--a time lag between plasma concentration and effect.
Conclusion: Nicotine is rapidly absorbed from nicotine nasal spray. The Cmax of nicotine after smoking or administration of nicotine nasal spray, or intravenous nicotine is substantially higher in arterial than venous plasma. Acute tolerance to the chronotropic effects of nicotine is not apparent if arterial plasma concentrations are measured.