Pharmacological treatment of tobacco dependence

Murray E. Jarvik, Jack E. Henningfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pharmacologically based approaches for the treatment of tobacco dependence are reviewed. The rational basis for pharmacologic treatment approaches is that tobacco dependence is partially, and critically, mediated by the actions of tobacco-delivered nicotine to the central nervous system. These actions include direct reinforcing properties of nicotine itself, tolerance and physiologic dependence, possible beneficial effects of nicotine in the alleviation of anxiety and control of weight, and neurohormonal regulation which can become important to the maintenance of emotional well-being and performance at work. Insofar as tobacco abstinence leads to negative consequences, via these biobehavioral mechanisms, pharmacologic intervention should be able to assist in initial tobacco detoxification and help tobacco abstinent persons to avoid subsequent relapse. The purpose of this review is to survey some of the efforts to develop such interventions, as well as to elucidate some of the issues relevant to such development. Four distinct approaches are discussed: (1) Nicotine replacement, in which physiologic dependence is transferred to a safer and more therapeutically manageable nicotine delivering formulation; this category includes nicotine polacrilex gum; (2) Blockade therapy, in which a drug is taken that blocks the reinforcing properties of nicotine should relapse occur; (3) Nonspecific pharmacotherapy, in which the biobehaviorally mediated correlates of tobacco abstinence are treated on a symptomatic basis; (4) Deterrent therapy, in which a drug is taken prior to smoking such that any tobacco use would produce reliable aversive effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-294
Number of pages16
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Antagonists
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Deterrents
  • Drug abuse
  • Nicotine gum
  • Tobacco
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology


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