The team tested whether nicotine exposure could affect alcohol drinking behaviour in two groups of male rats.  Both groups were given access to alcohol to establish the baseline of how much they would drink. After this, they used alcohol vapour to induce alcohol dependence in one group of rats. Dependence developed in about two months.The second group of rats were exposed to both nicotine and alcohol vapour.

These rats developed alcohol dependence much faster and they began drinking the equivalent of a six-pack in just three weeks."We had never seen such a rapid escalation of alcohol drinking before," George noted.

 The researchers then offered the rats alcohol with the bitter compound quinine.Most rats decreased their alcohol consumption to avoid the bitter taste, but the nicotine-exposed rats just kept drinking. This indicated that their behaviour was compulsive, much like alcoholism in humans.Nicotine activates certain "reward" neurons in the brain giving positive reinforcement to keep smoking.

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