Nicotine Psychopharmacology

Volume 192 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 511-534

Nicotine Psychopharmacology: Policy and Regulatory

  • Jack E. HenningfieldAffiliated with
  • , Mitch ZellerAffiliated withPinney Associates


Powerful nerve agent, poison, addictive drug, or wonder medicine of the future? Nicotine has had a long and storied history in pharmacology, physiology, public health and, more recently, in regulatory policy initiatives in the United States and internationally. Psychopharmacology research on nicotine and tobacco came to particular prominence in the latter third of the twentieth century with exploration addressing the role of nicotine in tobacco use, the potential categorization of nicotine as an addictive drug, the pharmacological basis for treatment of tobacco addiction, and the perspective of policy developers seeking to reduce the toll of tobacco use. In fact, the 2005 ratification of the World Health Organization's first global health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, provides further impetus for extending the science foundation for tobacco disease control and policy efforts. Implementation of the treaty's provisions will control tobacco use and reduce the 500 million premature deaths projected to occur in the first half of the twenty-first century from tobacco use. Psychopharmacological research on nicotine and tobacco was important in the rationale and development of the treaty. The public health relevance of psychopharmacology research continues to grow with the realization of the potential of nicotine and related drugs to treat or prevent a diverse range of disorders (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pain). Although comprehensive review of the research and implications is beyond the scope of this article, the more modest goal of providing insight into the theoretical, clinical, and policy importance of key psychopharmacology research laboratories over the past few decades is attempted.