Individuals exposed to nicotine during their adolescence are likely to drink more alcohol than those who were not exposed to nicotine or were only exposed to it during adulthood, finds a study over rats. The study showed that exposure to nicotine at a young age changes the neuronal circuitry in the brain’s reward pathways.
“This work on adolescent rats is particularly important because in recent years nicotine vaping with electronic cigarettes has increased among high school and middle school students,” said John Dani, from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
In the study, reported in the journal Cell Reports, the team administered nicotine via daily injections to the animals during adolescence or adulthood, then measured alcohol self-administration after a delay, enabling the adolescent rats to reach adulthood.
The rats exposed to adolescent nicotine pushed a lever to obtain a slightly sweetened alcohol drink more often for a greater daily intake of ethanol compared to rats that did not experience nicotine or rats or that only experienced nicotine during adulthood.