Neurobiological mechanisms of addiction: focus on corticotropin-releasing factor

Curr Opin Investig Drugs. 2010 Jan;11(1):63-71.


Drug addiction is a chronically relapsing disorder that is characterized by a compulsion to take drugs and loss of control in limiting intake. Medications that are on the market for the treatment of drug addiction target either the direct reinforcing effects of abuse (eg, naltrexone) or the consequent protracted abstinence syndrome (eg, acamprosate). Both conceptual and neurobiological advances in research have suggested that brain stress systems contribute to the withdrawal/negative affect and preoccupation/anticipation stages of the addiction cycle that promote the compulsivity of drug-taking in addiction. Validated animal models of the stress component of addiction and improved understanding of the neurocircuitry and neuropharmacological mechanisms involved in perturbations of this component suggest that corticotropin-releasing factor systems are a viable target for the development of future medications for drug addiction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / drug effects
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • CRF receptor type 1
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone