, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 205-212

Subjective and cardiovascular responses to nicotine combined with alcohol in male and female smokers

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Abstract

Nicotine and alcohol are often consumed concurrently by smokers. Each drug alone produces significant subjective and cardiovascular responses, but the effects of the two drugs in combination have rarely been examined. Smokers who were moderate alcohol drinkers (n = 18, 9 males and 9 females) participated in four sessions, involving acute administration of nicotine/placebo and alcohol/no alcohol. Subjects abstained overnight from tobacco and alcohol prior to each session. Nicotine (20 µg/kg per presentation) or placebo was administered by measured-dose nasal spray every 30 min for 2 h following consumption of diet tonic water with or without alcohol (0.5 g/kg). Subjective (visual analog scales, Profile of Mood States, Addiction Research Center Inventory) and cardiovascular (heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure) responses were assessed after each nicotine/placebo administration. Nicotine increased head rush, dizzy, and most stimulant effects (i.e. jittery, tension, and arousal and decreased fatigue and relaxed), while alcohol increased intoxication, head rush, dizzy, and jittery, with no other stimulant effects. Nicotine and alcohol generally produced additive subjective and cardiovascular effects when consumed together, although nicotine attenuated sedating and intoxicating effects of alcohol alone. Furthermore, there were several interaction effects on subjective measures involving gender. Nicotine plus alcohol tended to attenuate some subjective effects due to one drug or the other alone in men but enhanced the effects of either alone in women. These findings indicate that nicotine and alcohol generally have additive subjective and cardiovascular effects, but that men and women differentially respond on some subjective measures to the combination of alcohol and nicotine.