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Biochemical pharmacology

Potential substrates for nicotine and alcohol interactions: a focus on the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system.


PMID 23876345

Abstract

Epidemiological studies consistently find correlations between nicotine and alcohol use, yet the neural mechanisms underlying their interaction remain largely unknown. Nicotine and alcohol (i.e., ethanol) share many common molecular and cellular targets that provide potential substrates for nicotine-alcohol interactions. These targets for interaction often converge upon the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system, where the link to drug self-administration and reinforcement is well documented. Both nicotine and alcohol activate the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system, producing downstream dopamine signals that promote the drug reinforcement process. While nicotine primarily acts via nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, alcohol acts upon a wider range of receptors and molecular substrates. The complex pharmacological profile of these two drugs generates overlapping responses that ultimately intersect within the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system to promote drug use. Here we will examine overlapping targets between nicotine and alcohol and provide evidence for their interaction. Based on the existing literature, we will also propose some potential targets that have yet to be directly tested. Mechanistic studies that examine nicotine-alcohol interactions would ultimately improve our understanding of the factors that contribute to the associations between nicotine and alcohol use.