Role of glutamatergic and GABAergic systems in alcoholism

J Biomed Sci. Jan-Feb 2001;8(1):7-19. doi: 10.1007/BF02255966.


The pharmacological effects of ethanol are complex and widespread without a well-defined target. Since glutamatergic and GABAergic innervation are both dense and diffuse and account for more than 80% of the neuronal circuitry in the human brain, alterations in glutamatergic and GABAergic function could affect the function of all neurotransmitter systems. Here, we review recent progress in glutamatergic and GABAergic systems with a special focus on their roles in alcohol dependence and alcohol withdrawal-induced seizures. In particular, NMDA-receptors appear to play a central role in alcohol dependence and alcohol-induced neurological disorders. Hence, NMDA receptor antagonists may have multiple functions in treating alcoholism and other addictions and they may become important therapeutics for numerous disorders including epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's chorea, anxiety, neurotoxicity, ischemic stroke, and chronic pain. One of the new family of NMDA receptor antagonists, such as DETC-MESO, which regulate the redox site of NMDA receptors, may prove to be the drug of choice for treating alcoholism as well as many neurological diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, GABA / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA / physiology*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology*


  • Receptors, GABA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Ethanol