Cotinine: effects with and without nicotine

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998 Jan;135(2):141-50. doi: 10.1007/s002130050495.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of the metabolite of nicotine, cotinine, in comparison to the effects of the nicotine patch, and a combination thereof during cigarette abstinence. More specifically, this study examined the effects of cotinine on physiological measures, subjective measures assessing craving, withdrawal symptoms and mood, and performance measures. A between-subject, 2 x 2 factorial design was used, with the daily administration of a 15-mg nicotine patch (Nicotrol) versus placebo patch as one factor and 80 mg of oral cotinine fumarate versus placebo drug as the other factor. Baseline measures were obtained while the subjects smoked cigarettes on an ad lib basis for 1 week. Subjects (n = 106) were then randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions and for the next 14 days were required to be abstinent from cigarettes and take the study drugs. Cotinine administration, with or without nicotine patch, produced serum cotinine concentrations 3 4 times higher than during ad lib smoking. Results showed a reduction of self-reported tobacco withdrawal symptoms using the nicotine patch alone. Cotinine alone had no effect on withdrawal symptoms. However, when nicotine patch was combined with cotinine, the beneficial effect of the nicotine patch on withdrawal symptoms was absent. Therefore, cotinine appears to antagonize the effects of nicotine in the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms at concentrations higher than that attained from normal smoking. This effect does not appear to be mediated by changes in nicotine disposition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Cotinine / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / blood
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / blood
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine