In the past two decades a trickle of manuscripts examining the non-neuronal central nervous system immune consequences of the drugs of abuse has now swollen to a significant body of work. Initially, these studies reported associative evidence of central nervous system proinflammation resulting from exposure to the drugs of abuse demonstrating key implications for neurotoxicity and disease progression associated with, for example, HIV infection. However, more recently this drug-induced activation of central immune signaling is now understood to contribute substantially to the pharmacodynamic actions of the drugs of abuse, by enhancing the engagement of classical mesolimbic dopamine reward pathways and withdrawal centers. This review will highlight the key in vivo animal, human, biological and molecular evidence of these central immune signaling actions of opioids, alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Excitingly, this new appreciation of central immune signaling activity of drugs of abuse provides novel therapeutic interventions and opportunities to identify 'at risk' individuals through the use of immunogenetics. Discussion will also cover the evidence of modulation of this signaling by existing clinical and pre-clinical drug candidates, and novel pharmacological targets. Finally, following examination of the breadth of central immune signaling actions of the drugs of abuse highlighted here, the current known common immune signaling components will be outlined and their impact on established addiction neurocircuitry discussed, thereby synthesizing a common neuroimmune hypothesis of addiction.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.