Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in drug addiction

Trends Neurosci. 2006 Apr;29(4):225-32. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2006.01.008. Epub 2006 Feb 17.


Recent studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the common neurobiological mechanism underlying drug addiction. This system participates in the primary rewarding effects of cannabinoids, nicotine, alcohol and opioids, through the release of endocannabinoids in the ventral tegmental area. Endocannabinoids are also involved in the motivation to seek drugs by a dopamine-independent mechanism, demonstrated for psychostimulants and opioids. The endocannabinoid system also participates in the common mechanisms underlying relapse to drug-seeking behaviour by mediating the motivational effects of drug-related environmental stimuli and drug re-exposure. In agreement, clinical trials have suggested that the CB(1) cannabinoid antagonist rimonabant can cause smoking cessation. Thus, CB(1) cannabinoid antagonists could represent a new generation of compounds to treat drug addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / therapeutic use
  • Recurrence
  • Reward*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1