Despite widespread knowledge of the dangers of cigarette consumption, smoking continues to be a public health concern. One compound that has shown potential for treatment in preclinical models is the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT). The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of intranasal oxytocin on cigarette craving, behavioral economic demand for cigarettes, and cigarette consumption, in regular smokers after 18 hours of abstinence.
Otherwise healthy daily smokers (n= 35) completed two sessions where they received OT (40 IU intranasal) or placebo (PBO) and completed measures of craving and cigarette demand, and were given 6 opportunities to smoke partial cigarettes in exchange for money.
On average participants smoked few cigarettes after receiving OT than after receiving PBO, and they reported less desire for additional cigarettes during the smoking period. OT did not affect cigarette demand or standardized measures of cigarette craving.
This study suggests that OT decreases some indices of smoking desire and consumption, providing modest support for the idea that OT might be effective for reducing cigarette smoking.
This study provides new evidence that oxytocin might have clinical value in the treatment of addictive disorders, in this case tobacco addiction. The study adds to a growing literature suggesting that this neuropeptide, which is mainly known for its role in social bonding and attachment, may also affect mood and motivational states relevant to addiction.