Sex differences in nicotine effects and self-administration: review of human and animal evidence.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania, USA.
Nicotine & Tobacco Research (Impact Factor: 2.81). 01/2000; 1(4):301-15. DOI: 10.1080/14622299050011431
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Although both the human and animal literatures are notable for the general lack of attention paid to possible sex differences in drug self-administration behavior, evidence is accumulating to suggest that males and females may differ in factors that maintain tobacco smoking or nicotine self-administration. Self-administration of nicotine per se may be less robust in women, and women are less sensitive than men to some effects of nicotine that may be reinforcing. Compared to men, smoking behavior of women may be influenced more by non-nicotine stimuli associated with smoking, suggesting greater conditioned reinforcement of smoking in women. Moreover, nicotine replacement, the current standard treatment for smoking cessation, is sometimes less effective in women, further suggesting the need for greater consideration of non-nicotine factors that may maintain women's smoking. Very recent research on rats also indicates sex differences in nicotine self-administration. However, these differences are complex and suggest that nicotine-seeking behavior is composed of several components, including hedonic, incentive-motivational, and conditioning effects; males and females may differ in one or more of these components. Menstrual or estrous cycle phase effects on the maintenance of nicotine self-administration are not particularly apparent in humans or animals, although cycle phase may influence other stages of dependence (e.g., withdrawal symptoms during cessation). Future research should evaluate further the consistency of results across human and non-human species, identify the conditions and procedures under which sex differences are observed, and elucidate the specific components of reinforcement that may differ between males and females. Studies also should examine the possible generalizability of these sex differences to other drugs of abuse. Identification of specific factors responsible for these sex differences may lead to improved interventions for smoking cessation and other substance abuse in women.

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