Rationale: Co-users of alcohol and nicotine are the largest group of polysubstance users worldwide. Commonalities in mechanisms of action for ethanol (EtOH) and nicotine proposes the possibility of developing a single pharmacotherapeutic to treat co-use. Objectives: Toward developing a preclinical model of co-use, female alcohol-preferring (P) rats were trained for voluntary EtOH drinking and i.v. nicotine self-administration in three phases: (1) EtOH alone (0 vs. 15%, two-bottle choice), (2) nicotine alone (0.03 mg/kg/infusion, active vs. inactive lever), and (3) concurrent access to both EtOH and nicotine. Using this model, we examined the effects of (1) varenicline, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) partial agonist with high affinity for the α4β2* subtype; (2) r-bPiDI, a subtype-selective antagonist at α6β2* nAChRs; and (3) (R)-modafinil, an atypical inhibitor of the dopamine transporter (DAT). Results: In phases 1 and 2, pharmacologically relevant intake of EtOH and nicotine was achieved. In the concurrent access phase (phase 3), EtOH consumption decreased while nicotine intake increased relative to phases 1 and 2. For drug pretreatments, in the EtOH access phase (phase 1), (R)-modafinil (100 mg/kg) decreased EtOH consumption, with no effect on water consumption. In the concurrent access phase, varenicline (3 mg/kg), r-bPiDI (20 mg/kg), and (R)-modafinil (100 mg/kg) decreased nicotine self-administration but did not alter EtOH consumption, water consumption, or inactive lever pressing. Conclusions: These results indicate that therapeutics which may be useful for smoking cessation via selective inhibition of α4β2* or α6β2* nAChRs, or DAT inhibition, may not be sufficient to treat EtOH and nicotine co-use.
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