, Volume 186, Issue 1, pp 54-63
Date: 25 Mar 2006

Differential effects of nicotine on alcohol consumption in men and women

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Abstract

Rationale

Nicotine and alcohol are frequently co-used, suggesting that use of one drug may facilitate use of the other. Furthermore, because men and women differ in their responses to both drugs, it is possible that men and women also differ in their responses to the combination of nicotine and alcohol.

Objective

This experiment was designed to investigate the effects of nicotine on consumption and subjective and physiological effects of alcohol in healthy male and female social drinkers.

Materials and methods

Healthy light smoking, social drinkers (22 men and 12 women) participated in a three-session, double-blind within-subject study. They were pretreated with transdermal nicotine (7 or 14 mg) or placebo, followed two h later by an alcoholic beverage, and subsequent opportunities to “purchase” and consume more of the same drink. Outcome measures included the number of alcoholic beverages consumed and subjective and physiological effects.

Results

Nicotine increased alcohol consumption in men, whereas it decreased alcohol consumption in women. These effects were even more pronounced after excluding participants reporting nausea after nicotine administration. Nicotine alone increased subjective arousal in men but decreased positive mood in women. Nicotine increased the sedative-like effects of alcohol in both sexes.

Conclusions

These findings indicate that both the subjective effects of nicotine and the effects of nicotine on alcohol consumption differ markedly in men and women. The findings extend existing data on sex differences in the effects of either nicotine or cigarette smoking on alcohol consumption, and support the idea that the pharmacological effects of nicotine may differ in men and women.