Molecular neurobiology of drug addiction

Annu Rev Med. 2004;55:113-32. doi: 10.1146/


Addiction can be viewed as a form of drug-induced neural plasticity. One of the best-established molecular mechanisms of addiction is upregulation of the cAMP second messenger pathway, which occurs in many neuronal cell types in response to chronic administration of opiates or other drugs of abuse. This upregulation and the resulting activation of the transcription factor CREB appear to mediate aspects of tolerance and dependence. In contrast, induction of another transcription factor, termed DeltaFosB, exerts the opposite effect and may contribute to sensitized responses to drug exposure. Knowledge of these mechanisms could lead to more effective treatments for addictive disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Transcription Factors / drug effects*


  • Transcription Factors