Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Drug Dependence: An Overview and Update

Indian J Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;49(2):85-90. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.33253.


Drug dependence is a major cause of morbidity and loss of productivity. Various theories ranging from economic to psychological have been invoked in an attempt to explain this condition. With the advent of research at the cellular and subcellular levels, perspectives on the etiology of drug dependence have also changed. Perhaps the greatest advance has been in the identification of specific receptors for each of the drugs, their target neurotransmitter systems and the intracellular changes produced by them. These receptors also provide potential targets for treatment strategies of drug dependence. This overview attempts to present the mechanisms in the development of dependence and the newer treatment strategies for the major drugs of abuse like alcohol, opioids, cannabis, nicotine and cocaine.

Keywords: Drug dependence; cellular mechanism; neurotransmitters; receptors.