Nicotine and cannabinoids: Parallels, contrasts and interactions
Viveros MP, Marco EM, File SE.
Departamento de Fisiologia (Fisiologia Animal II),
Facultad de Biologia, Universidad Complutense,
Ciudad Universitaria,
C/Jose Antonio Novais 2,
28040, Madrid, Spain.
Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006 Oct 13;


After a brief outline of the nicotinic and cannabinoid systems, we review the interactions between the pharmacological effects of nicotine and cannabis, two of the most widely used drugs of dependence. These drugs are increasingly taken in combination, particularly among the adolescents and young adults. The review focuses on addiction-related processes, gateway and reverse gateway theories of addiction and therapeutic implications. It then reviews studies on the important period of adolescence, an area that is in urgent need of further investigation and in which the importance of sex differences is emerging. Three other areas of research, which might be particularly relevant to the onset and/or maintenance of dependence, are then reviewed. Firstly, the effects of the two drugs on anxiety-related behaviours are discussed and then their effects on food intake and cognition, two areas in which they have contrasting effects. Certain animal studies suggest that reinforcing effects are likely to be enhanced by joint consumption of nicotine and cannabis, as also may be anxiolytic effects. If this was the case in humans, the latter might be viewed as an advantage particularly by adolescent girls, although the increased weight gain associated with cannabis would be a disadvantage. The two drugs also have opposite effects on cognition and the possibility of long-lasting cognitive impairments resulting from adolescent consumption of cannabis is of particular concern.
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