The neurocircuitry of illicit psychostimulant addiction: acute and chronic effects in humans

Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2013 Feb 8;4:29-43. doi: 10.2147/SAR.S39684. eCollection 2013.


Illicit psychostimulant addiction remains a significant problem worldwide, despite decades of research into the neural underpinnings and various treatment approaches. The purpose of this review is to provide a succinct overview of the neurocircuitry involved in drug addiction, as well as the acute and chronic effects of cocaine and amphetamines within this circuitry in humans. Investigational pharmacological treatments for illicit psychostimulant addiction are also reviewed. Our current knowledge base clearly demonstrates that illicit psychostimulants produce lasting adaptive neural and behavioral changes that contribute to the progression and maintenance of addiction. However, attempts at generating pharmacological treatments for psychostimulant addiction have historically focused on intervening at the level of the acute effects of these drugs. The lack of approved pharmacological treatments for psychostimulant addiction highlights the need for new treatment strategies, especially those that prevent or ameliorate the adaptive neural, cognitive, and behavioral changes caused by chronic use of this class of illicit drugs.

Keywords: addiction; amphetamine; cocaine; human; methamphetamine; pharmacotherapy; substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Review