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Trends Neurosci. 2006 Apr;29(4):225-32. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in drug addiction.

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  • 1Laboratori de Neurofarmacologia, Facultat de Ciències de la Salut i de la Vida, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Carrer Dr. Aiguader 80, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.


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 re-exposure. In agreement, clinical trials have suggested that the CB(1) cannabinoid antagonist rimonabant can cause smoking cessation. Thus, CB(1) cannabinoid antagonists could represent a new generation of compounds to treat drug addiction.

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