Cannabinoids, opioids and eating behavior: the molecular face of hedonism?

Brain Res Rev. 2006 Jun;51(1):85-107. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2005.10.004. Epub 2005 Dec 20.


Obesity represents nowadays one of the most devastating health threats. Published reports even project a decline in life expectancy of US citizens due to the rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity. This alarming increase is intimately linked with recent changes of environment and lifestyle in western countries. In this context, the rewarding or even addictive properties of popular food may represent one of the most serious obstacles to overcome for an effective anti-obesity therapy. Therefore, in addition to molecular networks controlling energy homeostasis, now researchers are starting to define central nervous mechanisms governing hedonic and addictive components of food intake. A recently emerging body of data suggests that the endogenous cannabinoid and opioid systems both represent key circuits responding to the rewarding value of food. This review focuses on the role of these two systems for the homeostatic and hedonic aspects of eating behavior and includes their anatomical and functional interactions. Independent from the degree to which eating can be considered an addiction, cannabinoid and opioid receptor antagonists are promising anti-obesity drugs, since they are targeting both hedonic and homeostatic components of energy balance control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology
  • Cannabinoids / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Narcotics / pharmacology*
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Receptor Cross-Talk / physiology
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / physiology
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Narcotics
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Opioid