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An anti-nicotine drug reduces the rewarding effects of alcohol

  • Mecamylamine is a drug that blocks the effects of nicotine in the brain.
  • Mecamylamine is believed to reduce the rewarding effects of cigarette smoking.
  • A new study has found that mecamylamine also reduces self-reported stimulant and euphoric effects of alcohol in humans, as well as their desire to drink more.

Mecamylamine is a central nicotinic receptor antagonist that is believed to reduce the rewarding effects of cigarette smoking. Scientists have suspected for some time that common mechanisms may be involved in both nicotine and alcohol reward. Furthermore, prior research has suggested that mecamylamine blocks the reinforcing effects of alcohol in animals. A new study, published in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, has found that mecamylamine reduces the self-reported stimulant and euphoric effects of alcohol in humans, and also decreases their desire to drink more.

"Of all the drugs that act in the brain to produce their rewarding effects," said Harriet de Wit, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Chicago and corresponding author for the study, "alcohol has some of the most complex and varied effects on neurotransmitter receptor systems. One of the receptor systems where alcohol may act is the nicotinic acetylcholine (NACh) receptor system, the same system where nicotine acts. By acting at these NACh receptors, alcohol also increases the activity of another neurotransmitter system, the dopamine system, which is where most drugs are thought to produce their rewarding effects. We hypothesized that mecamylamine would block the effects of alcohol on the NACh receptors which would, in turn, reduce the activity of the dopamine system, resulting in a dampening of the rewarding effects of the alcohol."

Researchers recruited 27 (14 males, 13 females) non-smoking social drinkers to participate in six laboratory sessions lasting roughly four
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14-May-2003


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