Review Article

Drug addiction: a curable mental disorder?

Authors: Jian-feng Liu1, Jun-xu Li1
1 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA
Correspondence to: Jian-feng Liu:, Jun-xu Li:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-018-0180-x
Received: 11 September 2018
Accepted: 29 September 2018
Advance online: 31 October 2018


Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. Multiple neural networks in the brain including the reward system (e.g., the mesocorticolimbic system), the anti-reward/stress system (e.g., the extended amygdala), and the central immune system, are involved in the development of drug addiction and relapse after withdrawal from drugs of abuse. Preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that it is promising to control drug addiction by pharmacologically targeting the addiction-related systems in the brain. Here we review the pharmacological targets within the dopamine system, glutamate system, trace amine system, anti-reward system, and central immune system, which are of clinical interests. Furthermore, we discuss other potential therapies, e.g., brain stimulation, behavioral treatments, and therapeutic gene modulation, which could be effective to treat drug addiction. We conclude that, although drug addiction is a complex disorder that involves complicated neural mechanisms and psychological processes, this mental disorder is treatable and may be curable by therapies such as gene modulation in the future.
Keywords: drug addiction; pharmacological targets; behavioral treatment; brain stimulation; gene therapy

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