Mechanisms of the Nicotine Metabolism Effect on Tobacco Dependence

Investigator: Neal Benowitz, MD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse

Location(s): United States


Our studies will use the nicotine metabolite ratio (NMR) (the ratio between the nicotine metabolites 3'hydroxycotinine and cotinine)as a simple and clinically feasible biomarker for the rate of nicotine metabolism. The investigators hypothesize that a faster rate of metabolism leads to faster elimination of nicotine from the body and a more rapid dissipation of brain tolerance to nicotine in the interval between cigarettes, leading in turn to (1) more severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms and (2) greater subjective reward from the cigarette smoked following deprivation. These effects would help to explain why smokers with faster rates of nicotine metabolism have a poorer response to smoking cessation therapy when compared to those with slower rates of metabolism.

The investigators will explore the relationship of the NMR to the endophenotypes of withdrawal, craving and reward, with the assumption that these factors are likely intermediaries for the mechanism linking nicotine metabolism to tobacco dependence and smoking cessation rates with pharmacotherapy. Our study design uses a brief (6 hour) interval of smoking abstinence followed by a "reward" cigarette to elicit the subjective responses relating to withdrawal and reward. Because smoking behavior and severity of nicotine dependence vary by race and sex the investigators will also compare the relationship between NMR and withdrawal and reward in African American vs white smokers and in men vs women.

Secondary analyses will examine whether nicotine half-life mediates the observed effects of NMR on primary response measures.