Compulsive tobacco use - an alternative hypothesis
The compulsive use of tobacco has led to the common belief that nicotine is addictive and this is the core feature underlying the abuse liability of tobacco. However nicotine or tobacco fail to meet most criteria for abuse liability and even under the key addictiveness criterion of “liking”, nicotine or tobacco are not greatly liked compared to other substances. Convoluted theoretical models have been developed to explain these discrepancies but none has proved adequate in fully explaining tobacco use or in developing more effective treatments for tobacco dependence.
The liking response is associated with enjoyment and satisfaction after consumption. However there is a second major driver of motivated behaviour, a “wanting” response associated with anticipation and desire before consumption. To date models of tobacco use have subsumed the wanting response under the liking response but there are a number of reasons why they should be regarded as distinct systems. Most notably wanting (the incentive system) and liking (the hedonic system) can be dissociated by manipulation of different neurochemical systems (Berridge 1995) and by hedonic hotspots in the brain separable from incentive hotspots (Berridge et al. 2009).
This presentation will present evidence in support of a hypothesis that nicotine may influence the incentive (wanting) system more than the hedonic (liking) system. Not only would this explain the apparent lack of addictiveness of nicotine and tobacco but also suggest that compulsive tobacco use reflects a form of excess wanting. This could lead to new targets for the treatment of tobacco dependence and highlights the importance of monitoring both the hedonic (liking) and incentive (wanting) systems during the development of next generation nicotine and tobacco products.