Pharmacology of Nicotine

  • Neal L. Benowitz


Nicotine has been consumed in the form of tobacco and other plants for many hundreds of years. The compulsive use of tobacco has been observed in nearly every culture into which tobacco has been introduced. About 25% of adult Americans smoke despite, in most cases, a desire to quit and common knowledge of the health hazards (Centers for Disease Control, 1987). Their failure to quit smoking is attributable in large part to the addictive properties of nicotine. Nicotine is also available as a pharmaceutical agent, marketed as chewing gum, transdermal delivery systems, nasal spray, and inhaler to help people stop smoking. This chapter examines the mechanisms of action and pharmacologic properties of nicotine in humans, the role of nicotine in determining cigarette-smoking behavior, and the use of nicotine as medication for diseases other than tobacco addiction. The reader is also referred to the 1987 Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Cigarette Smoking: Addiction, for a detailed review of the pharmacology and toxicology of nicotine and its role in tobacco addiction (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1988). Treatment of tobacco addiction, including the use of nicotine replacement medications, is discussed elsewhere in this volume.


Cigarette Smoking Ventral Tegmental Area Nicotine Replacement Therapy Smokeless Tobacco Nicotine Addiction 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neal L. Benowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Biopharmaceutical SciencesUniversity of California at San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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