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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Oct;1139:412-21. doi: 10.1196/annals.1432.056.

An endocannabinoid hypothesis of drug reward and drug addiction.

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Department of Biology, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey, USA.


Pharmacologic treatment of drug and alcohol dependency has largely been disappointing, and new therapeutic targets and hypotheses are needed. There is accumulating evidence indicating a central role for the previously unknown but ubiquitous endocannabinoid physiological control system (EPCS) in the regulation of the rewarding effects of abused substances. Thus an endocannabinoid hypothesis of drug reward is postulated. Endocannabinoids mediate retrograde signaling in neuronal tissues and are involved in the regulation of synaptic transmission to suppress neurotransmitter release by the presynaptic cannabinoid receptors (CB-Rs). This powerful modulatory action on synaptic transmission has significant functional implications and interactions with the effects of abused substances. Our data, along with those from other investigators, provide strong new evidence for a role for EPCS modulation in the effects of drugs of abuse, and specifically for involvement of cannabinoid receptors in the neural basis of addiction. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids appear to be involved in adding to the rewarding effects of addictive substances, including, nicotine, opiates, alcohol, cocaine, and BDZs. The results suggest that the EPCS may be an important natural regulatory mechanism for drug reward and a target for the treatment of addictive disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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