Imaging stress- and cue-induced drug and alcohol craving: association with relapse and clinical implications

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2007 Jan;26(1):25-31. doi: 10.1080/09595230601036960.


Stress- and drug-related cues are major factors contributing to high rates of relapse in addictive disorders. Brain imaging studies have begun to identify neural correlates of stress and drug cue-induced craving states. Findings indicate considerable overlap in neural circuits involved in processing stress and drug cues with activity in the corticostriatal limbic circuitry underlying both affective and reward processing. More recent efforts have begun to identify the relationships between neural activity during stress and drug cue exposure and drug relapse outcomes. Findings suggest medial prefrontal, anterior and posterior cingulate, striatal and posterior insula regions to be associated with relapse outcomes. Altered function in these brain regions is associated with stress-induced and drug cue-induced craving states and an increased susceptibility to relapse. Such alterations can serve as markers to identify relapse propensity and a more severe course of addiction. Efficacy of pharmacological and behavioral treatments that specifically target stress and cue-induced craving and arousal responses may also be assessed via alterations in these brain correlates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cues*
  • Emotions
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / toxicity*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Motivation*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Ethanol