Neurobiology of relapse to heroin and cocaine seeking: an update and clinical implications

Eur J Pharmacol. 2005 Dec 5;526(1-3):36-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.09.030. Epub 2005 Nov 14.


The central problem in the treatment of cocaine and heroin addiction is high rates of relapse to drug use after periods of forced or self-imposed abstinence. Relapse can be modeled in laboratory animals a reinstatement procedure in which responding for drug is extinguished and then reinstated by acute exposure to the drug, drug cues, or stress. In this review, we first summarize data from recent (2003-2005) studies on the neural substrates involved in reinstatement of heroin and cocaine seeking. We also discuss the neural mechanisms underlying the progressive increase in cocaine seeking after withdrawal (incubation of cocaine craving). Finally, we provide an update on several novel candidate medications for relapse prevention suggested by recent preclinical studies, and we discuss the translation of findings from nonhuman laboratory studies to the clinical phenomenon of relapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Cues
  • Heroin Dependence / etiology
  • Heroin Dependence / physiopathology
  • Heroin Dependence / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Recurrence*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications