Co-morbid use of nicotine-containing tobacco products and alcohol (ethanol) is prevalent in young adults initiating use and in alcohol dependent adults, suggesting that these drugs in combination may increase risk to develop dependence on one or both drugs. Neuroadaptations caused by repeated drug exposure are related to the development of drug dependence and vulnerability to relapse. Locomotor sensitization has been used as a behavioral measure used to detect changes in neural drug sensitivity that are thought to contribute to drug dependence and relapse. Locomotor sensitization was measured in the current studies to examine potential differences in the effects of nicotine and ethanol given alone and in combination. Baseline activity levels of DBA/2J mice were assessed on 2 days, then mice were treated for 10 days with saline, nicotine (1 or 2. mg/kg of nicotine tartrate), ethanol (1 or 2. g/kg), or nicotine plus ethanol and locomotor activity was assessed every third day. On the following day, all mice were challenged with ethanol to measure the expression of sensitization. Mice treated with both nicotine and ethanol exhibited greater stimulation than predicted from the combined independent effects of these drugs, consistent with our previously published results. The combined effects of nicotine and ethanol on locomotor sensitization were dependent on the dose of ethanol and whether testing was performed after the drugs were given together, or after challenge with ethanol alone. These results suggest that nicotine and ethanol in combination can have neuroadaptive effects that differ from the independent effects of these drugs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Behavioral Neuroscience