Pioglitazone, a PPARγ agonist, reduces nicotine craving in humans, with marginal effects on abuse potential
Possibly through their actions upon glia, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor agonists (PPAR) have been shown to alter the abuse potential of addictive drugs in several preclinical models. The current study extends this research into the human laboratory as the first clinical study into the effects of the PPAR gamma agonist, pioglitazone, on the abuse potential of nicotine. Heavy smokers were recruited for this 3-week study. Upon admission, participants were randomized to either active (45 mg, n = 14) or placebo (0 mg, n = 13) PIO maintenance conditions for the duration of the study. After 5–7 days of stabilization on a 7 mg nicotine patch, participants began laboratory testing. On the 1st–4th test days, participants could self-administer cigarettes or receive money by making verbal choices for either option. On the 5th day, participants were administered 10 puffs of their usual brand of cigarette in the morning and later chose between smoking and money by making finger presses on a computer mouse in a progressive ratio self-administration task. Later on the 5th day participants also underwent a smoking cue exposure session. The 8th–11th test days were identical to the 1st–4th test days with the exception that during one of the test weeks de-nicotinized cigarettes were available, and during the other nicotinized cigarettes were available. Nicotinized cigarettes were always administered on the 5th and 12th days. On some measures PIO increased indicators of abuse potential, though this effect was typically not statistically significant. However, PIO did significantly reduce measures of craving.