Using Metabolomics to Investigate Biomarkers of Drug Addiction

Trends Mol Med. 2018 Feb;24(2):197-205. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2017.12.005. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Drug addiction has been associated with an increased risk for cancer, psychological complications, heart, liver, and lung disease, as well as infection. While genes have been identified that can mark individuals at risk for substance abuse, the initiation step of addiction is attributed to persistent metabolic disruptions occurring following the first instance of narcotic drug use. Advances in analytical technologies can enable the detection of thousands of signals in body fluids and excreta that can be used to define biochemical profiles of addiction. Today, these approaches hold promise for determining how exposure to drugs, in the absence or presence of other environmentally relevant factors, can impact human metabolism. We posit that these can lead to candidate biomarkers of drug dependence, treatment, withdrawal, or relapse.

Keywords: Substance abuse; biomarkers; drug abuse; metabolomics; opioid addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis*
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism


  • Biomarkers