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Endocannabinoids and drug dependence.

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DBSF, and Center of Neurosciences, Univ of Insubria, Via A. da Giussano 10, 21052 Busto Arsizio (Varese), Italy.


Drug dependence is a chronically relapsing disorder, manifested as an intense desire for the drug, with impaired ability to control the urges to take the drug, even at the expense of serious adverse consequences. These behavioral abnormalities develop gradually during repeated exposure to a drug of abuse, and can persist for months or years after discontinuation of use, suggesting that this addiction can be considered a form of drug-induced neural plasticity. Many neurotransmitters, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate, acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin and endogenous opioid peptides, have been implicated in the effects of the various drugs of abuse. Dopamine has been consistently associated with the reinforcing effects of most of them. There is, in addition, a growing body of evidence that the endogenous cannabinoid system might participate in the motivational and dopamine-releasing effects of several drugs of abuse. This review will discuss the latest advances on the mechanisms of cannabinoid dependence and the possible role of the endocannabinoid system in the treatment of addiction, not only to marijuana but also to the other common illicit drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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