• Journal Article

Effects of Chronic Varenicline Treatment on Nicotine, Cocaine, and Concurrent Nicotine+Cocaine Self-Administration


Mello, N. K., Fivel, P. A., Kohut, S. J., & Carroll, F. (2014). Effects of Chronic Varenicline Treatment on Nicotine, Cocaine, and Concurrent Nicotine+Cocaine Self-Administration. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(5), 1222-1231.


Nicotine dependence and cocaine abuse are major public health problems, and most cocaine abusers also smoke cigarettes. An ideal treatment medication would reduce both cigarette smoking and cocaine abuse. Varenicline is a clinically available, partial agonist at alpha4beta2* and alpha6beta2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and a full agonist at alpha7 nAChRs. Varenicline facilitates smoking cessation in clinical studies and reduced nicotine self-administration, and substituted for the nicotine-discriminative stimulus in preclinical studies. The present study examined the effects of chronic varenicline treatment on self-administration of IV nicotine, IV cocaine, IV nicotine+cocaine combinations, and concurrent food-maintained responding by five cocaine- and nicotine-experienced adult rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Varenicline (0.004-0.04 mg/kg/h) was administered intravenously every 20 min for 23 h each day for 7-10 consecutive days. Each varenicline treatment was followed by saline-control treatment until food- and drug-maintained responding returned to baseline. During control treatment, nicotine+cocaine combinations maintained significantly higher levels of drug self-administration than nicotine or cocaine alone (P<0.05-0.001). Varenicline dose-dependently reduced responding maintained by nicotine alone (0.0032 mg/kg/inj) (P<0.05), and in combination with cocaine (0.0032 mg/kg/inj) (P<0.05) with no significant effects on food-maintained responding. However, varenicline did not significantly decrease self-administration of a low dose of nicotine (0.001 mg/kg), cocaine alone (0.0032 and 0.01 mg/kg/inj), or 0.01 mg/kg cocaine combined with the same doses of nicotine. We conclude that varenicline selectively attenuates the reinforcing effects of nicotine alone but not cocaine alone, and its effects on nicotine+cocaine combinations are dependent on the dose of cocaine.Neuropsychopharmacology advance online publication, 18 December 2013; doi:10.1038/npp.2013.325