Enhancing the effects of endogenously-released cannabinoid ligands in the brain might provide therapeutic effects more safely and effectively than administering drugs that act directly at the cannabinoid receptor. Inhibitors of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) prevent the breakdown of endogenous ligands for cannabinoid receptors and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR), prolonging and enhancing the effects of these ligands when they are naturally released. This review considers recent research on the effects of FAAH inhibitors and PPAR activators in animal models of addiction and cognition (specifically learning and memory). These studies show that FAAH inhibitors can produce potentially therapeutic effects, some through cannabinoid receptors and some through PPAR. These effects include enhancing certain forms of learning, counteracting the rewarding effects of nicotine and alcohol, relieving symptoms of withdrawal from cannabis and other drugs, and protecting against relapse-like reinstatement of drug self-administration. Since FAAH inhibition might have a wide range of therapeutic actions but might also share some of the adverse effects of cannabis, it is noteworthy that at least one FAAH-inhibiting drug (URB597) has been found to have potentially beneficial effects but no indication of liability for abuse or dependence. Although these areas of research are new, the preliminary evidence indicates that they might lead to improved therapeutic interventions and a better understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying addiction and memory.
Published by Elsevier Inc.