Correlates of individual differences in compensatory nicotine self-administration in rats following a decrease in nicotine unit dose

Andrew C. Harris, Paul R. Pentel, Mark G. Lesage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Rationale: The ability of tobacco harm reduction strategies to produce significant reductions in toxin exposure is limited by compensatory increases in smoking behavior. Characterizing factors contributing to the marked individual variability in compensation may be useful for understanding this phenomenon and assessing the feasibility of harm reduction interventions. Objective: The objective of the study was to use an animal model of human compensatory smoking that involves a decrease in unit dose supporting nicotine self-administration (NSA) to examine potential contributors to individual differences in compensation. Methods: Rats were trained for NSA during daily 23-h sessions at a unit dose of 0.06 mg/kg/inf until responding was stable. The unit dose was then reduced to 0.03 mg/kg/inf for at least 10 sessions. Following reacquisition of NSA at the training dose and extinction, single-dose nicotine pharmacokinetic parameters were determined. Results: Decreases in nicotine intake following dose reduction were proportionally less than the decrease in unit dose, indicating partial compensation. Compensatory increases in infusion rates were observed across the course of the 23-h sessions. The magnitude of compensation differed considerably between rats. Rats exhibiting the highest baseline infusion rates exhibited the lowest levels of compensation. Nicotine pharmacokinetic parameters were not significantly correlated with compensation. Infusion rates immediately returned to pre-reduction levels when baseline conditions were restored. Conclusions: These findings provide initial insights into correlates of individual differences in compensation following a reduction in nicotine unit dose. The present assay may be useful for characterizing mechanisms and potential consequences of the marked individual differences in compensatory smoking observed in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-611
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This study was supported by NIH grants T32 DA 07097 (NIDA), F32 DA021935 (NIDA), and P50-DA013333 (NIDA/NCI) and the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation Translational Addiction Research Program. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


  • Compensation
  • Harm reduction
  • Nicotine
  • Rat
  • Self-administration


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