Smoking cigarettes just makes it better… The enhancement effect of nicotine

A recent study by a Kansas state researcher (find it here) reports that part of the power of nicotine may be in its enhancement of other experiences that go hand in hand with it.

While the online source I included suggests that nicotine’s effect may be only in this indirect enhancement, my reading of the article proved that in fact, at high doses, nicotine alone provided the same effects all by itself.

Nicotine as an enhancer

My dissertation is actually going to be based on a nicotine experiment, so this is a topic I know quite a bit about now. As this recent study reports, it seems that animals are rarely willing to work for nicotine alone, something I found surprising at first. I mean, given how many people are addicted to cigarettes, I thought this stuff would be an easy sell. Instead, it’s taken quite a bit of work to figure out how exactly to make nicotine rewarding enough without making its effects almost too much to bare initially. As someone who used to smoke and remembers the nausea I felt the first time I tried, I understand.

Even still, I’ve had to play around quite a bit to make my my nicotine worthy of lever presses and nose-pokes. I now firmly believe that nicotine addiction has quite a bit to do with the context, behaviors, and other factors associated with smoking.

Is nicotine different from alcohol, meth, and cocaine?

So, much like the previous post I put up regarding the finding that drinking enhances people’s enjoyment when they smoke, it seems that not-surprisingly, the same thing happens the other way around – Smoking makes drinking better.

In truth, this isn’t all that surprising, there has been a lot of research showing that many drugs make the animals in research do more of other things they like. This has been shown for crystal meth, cocaine, and a number of other stimulants, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true for other drugs. The thing that makes nicotine a little different is that it is almost never rewarding all by itself. Well, at least in the lab…


Nadia Chaudhri, Anthony R. Caggiula, Eric C. Donny, Sheri Booth, Maysa Gharib,Laure Craven, Matthew I. Palmatier, Xiu Liu & Alan F. Sved (2007) Self-administered and noncontingent nicotine enhance reinforced operant responding in rats: impact of nicotine dose and reinforcement schedule.Psychopharmacology, 190, pg. 353–362

3 responses to “Smoking cigarettes just makes it better… The enhancement effect of nicotine”

  1. I believe there is some research out there that shows that nicotine increases the addictiveness of opiates.

  2. Hi Adi and Everyone,

    I can see the validity in my own life as an ex-smoker. Smoking made eating better, also listening to live music, and drinking. It was the all-purpose reinforcer for “whatever.” I was able to quit in 1997, but it took me a few more years to finally stop. It was a process. I joined Nicotine Anonymous and that helped a lot. I also took a smoking cessation workshop by a certified trainer from the American Heart or Lung Association.

  3. Very interesting. I too can see how this could be true from my experience. I avoided the temptation of smoking with my friends until I started to drink. Even then I only smoked occasionally until I was in a situation where I was in social situation frequently enough that I became addicted enough to experience the withdraw. At that point it wasn’t long before I hit a pack a day.

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