Mood and physiological effects of subcutaneous nicotine in smokers and never-smokers

Jonathan Foulds, John A. Stapleton, Nicholas Bell, John Swettenham, Martin J. Jarvis, Michael A.H. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


This study compared the effect of subcutaneous nicotine injections (2 x 0.3 mg and 2 x 0.6 mg) with saline on subjective and physiological measures in 18 never-smokers and 18 smokers (24-h nicotine deprived), under conditions of rest and cognitive testing. Prior to the injections the mood of the smokers had deteriorated to a level significantly below that of the never-smokers as a result of tobacco withdrawal. Cognitive tests caused reductions in calmness and increased alertness but there was no evidence of nicotine improving mood in either group under either condition. The 0.6 mg dose worsened mood in never-smokers and caused unpleasant symptoms (e.g. dizziness and arm pain) in both groups. Compared with smokers, never-smokers experienced stronger symptoms of nicotine toxicity and a greater reduction in alertness in response to the 0.6 mg dose, suggesting chronic tolerance to some nicotine effects in smokers. Nicotine produced similar increases in heart rate and decreases in finger pulse volume in both groups. Our results imply that if nicotine has a mood enhancing effect it occurs only after tolerance has been acquired to its primary adverse effects, and that its ability to reverse the mood deterioration caused by tobacco withdrawal is susceptible to situational factors such as our experimental conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 14 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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