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The neurokinin-1 Receptor in Addictive Processes


The neurokinin-1 Receptor in Addictive Processes

Jesse R Schank. J Pharmacol Exp Ther.


Stress can trigger drug-seeking behavior, increase self-administration rates, and enhance drug reward. A number of stress-related neuropeptides have been shown to mediate these behavioral processes. The most studied peptide in this category is corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which has been shown to mediate stress-induced reinstatement of drug seeking, escalated self-administration, and drug withdrawal, but it does not seem to be involved in baseline drug self-administration or cue-induced reinstatement. This pattern of effects holds for many classes of drugs, including alcohol, opiates, and psychostimulants. The neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) is the preferred receptor for the endogenous stress-related neuropeptide substance P (SP). The SP/NK1R system is a major mediator of stress and anxiety, and over the last several years, it has been demonstrated that the SP/NK1R system can have effects similar to those of CRH on drug taking and drug seeking. Specifically, NK1R inhibition attenuates escalated self-administration of alcohol as well as stress-induced reinstatement of alcohol and cocaine seeking; however, in contrast to other stress systems, the NK1R also appears to have a role in primary reward and reinforcement for opiates. This review outlines the role of NK1R in drug-seeking behaviors and highlights recent results from clinical studies that suggest that the NK1R may be a promising drug target going forward.

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