Focusing on the Opioid System for Addiction Biomarker Discovery

Trends Mol Med. 2018 Feb;24(2):206-220. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2017.12.004. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Substance use disorders (SUD) and behavioral addictions are devastating conditions that impose a severe burden on all societies, and represent difficult challenges for clinicians. Therefore, biomarkers are urgently needed to help predict vulnerability, clinical course, and response to treatment. Here, we elaborate on the potential for addiction biomarker discovery of the opioid system, particularly within the emerging framework aiming to probe opioid function in peripheral tissues. Mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors all critically regulate neurobiological and behavioral processes that define addiction, and are also targeted by major pharmacotherapies used in the management of patients with SUD. We propose that opioid biomarkers may have the potential to improve and guide diagnosis and therapeutic decisions in the addiction field.

Keywords: addiction; biomarker; brain imaging; epigenetic; genetic; opioid receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism*
  • Behavior, Addictive / therapy
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, Opioid

Grant support