Role of innate and drug-induced dysregulation of brain stress and arousal systems in addiction: Focus on corticotropin-releasing factor, nociceptin/orphanin FQ, and orexin/hypocretin

Brain Res. 2010 Feb 16;1314:145-61. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.12.027. Epub 2009 Dec 21.


Stress-like symptoms are an integral part of acute and protracted drug withdrawal, and several lines of evidence have shown that dysregulation of brain stress systems, including the extrahypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system, following long-term drug use is of major importance in maintaining drug and alcohol addiction. Recently, two other neuropeptide systems have attracted interest, the nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) and orexin/hypocretin (Orx/Hcrt) systems. N/OFQ participates in a wide range of physiological responses, and the hypothalamic Orx/Hcrt system helps regulate several physiological processes, including feeding, energy metabolism, and arousal. Moreover, these two systems have been suggested to participate in psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and drug addiction. Dysregulation of these systems by chronic drug exposure has been hypothesized to play a role in the maintenance of addiction and dependence. Recent evidence demonstrated that interactions between CRF-N/OFQ and CRF-Orx/Hcrt systems may be functionally relevant for the control of stress-related addictive behavior. The present review discusses recent findings that support the hypotheses of the participation and dysregulation of these systems in drug addiction and evaluates the current understanding of interactions among these stress-regulatory peptides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / drug effects
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology*
  • Orexins
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Opioid Peptides
  • Orexins
  • nociceptin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone