Nicotine Blocks the Depressogenic Effects of Alcohol: Implications for Drinking-Smoking Co-Morbidity

Author(s): Olubukola Kalejaiye, Babur H Bhatti, Robert E Taylor, and Yousef Tizabi


Alcohol and nicotine are two very commonly abused legal substances. Although various hypotheses for such co-dependence have been suggested, it is not known whether the effects of alcohol and nicotine on mood behavior may also contribute to such coabuse. Chronic exposure to high alcohol levels may lead to various neurochemical changes and precipitate depressive-like behavior. Nicotine, on the other hand, may exert an antidepressant-like effect. Here, we sought to determine whether nicotine may also block or mitigate the “depressogenic” effects of alcohol in a rat model. Moreover, since hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been strongly implicated in mood regulation and effectiveness of antidepressants, the level of this neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus was also evaluated. Adult male Wistar rats were injected (i.p.) with alcohol (1.0 g/kg), nicotine (0.3 mg/kg) or their combination once daily for 14 days. Controls received saline. The behavior of these rats in open field locomotor activity (LMA), the forced swim test (FST), a measure of helplessness, and sucrose intake, a measure of anhedonia were evaluated 16–18 h after the last injection. Chronic alcohol did not affect LMA, but increased immobility in FST and decreased sucrose consumption, suggesting a “depressogenic” effect. Nicotine by itself did not affect any of the measured behavior but blocked alcohol-induced changes in FST and sucrose intake. Parallel to the behavioral changes, chronic alcohol resulted in a significant decrease in hippocampal BDNF, which was normalized by nicotine. These findings suggest that the opposing effects of alcohol and nicotine on depressive-like behavior may contribute to their co-abuse.

image 10.4303/jdar/235709

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