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Pharmacol Rev. 2005 Mar;57(1):1-26.

Pharmacogenetics and human molecular genetics of opiate and cocaine addictions and their treatments.

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The Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases, The Rockefeller University, Box 171, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Opiate and cocaine addictions are major social and medical problems that impose a significant burden on society. Despite the size and scope of these problems, there are few effective treatments for these addictions. Methadone maintenance is an effective and most widely used treatment for opiate addiction, allowing normalization of many physiological abnormalities caused by chronic use of short-acting opiates. There are no pharmacological treatments for cocaine addiction. Epidemiological, linkage, and association studies have demonstrated a significant contribution of genetic factors to the addictive diseases. This article reviews the molecular genetics and pharmacogenetics of opiate and cocaine addictions, focusing primarily on genes of the opioid and monoaminergic systems that have been associated with or have evidence for linkage to opiate or cocaine addiction. This evidence has been marshalled either through identification of variant alleles that lead to functional alterations of gene products, altered gene expression, or findings of linkage or association studies. Studies of polymorphisms in the mu opioid receptor gene, which encodes the receptor target of some endogenous opioids, heroin, morphine, and synthetic opioids, have contributed substantially to knowledge of genetic influences on opiate and cocaine addiction. Other genes of the endogenous opioid and monoaminergic systems, particularly genes encoding dopamine beta-hydroxylase, and the dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine transporters have also been implicated. Variants in genes encoding proteins involved in metabolism or biotransformation of drugs of abuse and also of treatment agents are reviewed.

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