GABA(B) receptor agonists for the treatment of drug addiction: a review of recent findings

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2002 Feb 1;65(3):209-20. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(01)00163-6.


A growing preclinical and clinical literature suggests that GABA(B) receptor agonists promote abstinence and reduce the use of cocaine, heroin, alcohol and nicotine. The purpose of this paper is to critically review these data. GABA(B) receptor agonists, such as baclofen, appear to reduce the reinforcing effects of abused drugs in animal models under multiple experimental procedures. This occurs at doses that have little effect on responding for other positive reinforcers such as food or water. We review evidence that these potential therapeutic effects may be mediated by modulation of mesolimbic dopamine neurons. This review also examines the preliminary clinical data from studies of the efficacy of baclofen for treatment of cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine dependence. We suggest that these preliminary data provide a rationale for conducting more systematic studies of the effects of GABA(B) receptor agonists as treatment for drug abuse. This line of research may also improve our understanding of the neurochemical mechanisms underlying the drug dependence process.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Baclofen / pharmacology
  • Baclofen / therapeutic use
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • GABA-B Receptor Agonists*
  • Humans
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • GABA Agonists
  • GABA-B Receptor Agonists
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Baclofen
  • Dopamine