Cotinine: Effects with and without nicotine

Dorothy Hatsukami, Paul R. Pentel, Joni Jensen, David Nelson, Sharon S. Allen, Anne Goldman, Donna Rafael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of the metabolite of nicotine, cotinine, in comparison to the effects of the nicotine patch, and a combination thereof during cigarette abstinence. More specifically, this study examined the effects of cotinine on physiological measures, subjective measures assessing craving, withdrawal symptoms and mood, and performance measures. A between-subject, 2 x 2 factorial design was used, with the daily administration of a 15-mg nicotine patch (Nicotrol) versus placebo patch as one factor and 80 mg of oral cotinine fumarate versus placebo drug as the other factor. Baseline measures were obtained while the subjects smoked cigarettes on an ad lib basis for 1 week. Subjects (n = 106) were then randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions and for the next 14 days were required to be abstinent from cigarettes and take the study drugs. Cotinine administration, with or without nicotine patch, produced serum cotinine concentrations 3-4 times higher than during ad lib smoking. Results showed a reduction of self-reported tobacco withdrawal symptoms using the nicotine patch alone. Cotinine alone had no effect on withdrawal symptoms. However, when nicotine patch was combined with cotinine, the beneficial effect of the nicotine patch on withdrawal symptoms was absent. Therefore, cotinine appears to antagonize the effects of nicotine in the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms at concentrations higher than that attained from normal smoking. This effect does not appear to be mediated by changes in nicotine disposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This study was supported by NIH grant P50DA09259. Nicotine patches were provided by Upjohn Pharmacia.


  • Cotinine
  • Nicotine patch
  • Tobacco withdrawal


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