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Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in drug addiction

Source: Trends in Neurosciences

Published: February 17, 2006



Recent studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the common neurobiological mechanism underlying drug addiction. This system participates in the primary rewarding effects of cannabinoids, nicotine, alcohol and opioids, through the release of endocannabinoids in the ventral tegmental area. Endocannabinoids are also involved in the motivation to seek drugs by a dopamine-independent mechanism, demonstrated for psychostimulants and opioids. The endocannabinoid system also participates in the common mechanisms underlying relapse to drug-seeking behaviour by mediating the motivational effects of drug-related environmental stimuli and drug reexposure. In agreement, clinical trials have suggested that the CB1 cannabinoid antagonist rimonabant can cause smoking cessation. Thus, CB1 cannabinoid antagonists could represent a new generation of compounds to treat drug addiction.