Novel approaches for the treatment of psychostimulant and opioid abuse-focus on opioid receptor-based therapies

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Introduction: Psychostimulant and opioid addiction are poorly treated. The majority of abstinent users relapse back to drug-taking within a year of abstinence, making 'anti-relapse' therapies the focus of much current research. There are two fundamental challenges to developing novel treatments for drug addiction. First, there are three key stimuli that precipitate relapse back to drug-taking: stress, presentation of drug-conditioned cue, taking a small dose of drug. The most successful novel treatment would be effective against all three stimuli. Second, a large number of drug users are poly-drug users: taking more than one drug of abuse at a time. The ideal anti-Addiction treatment would, therefore, be effective against all classes of drugs of abuse.Areas covered: In this review, the authors discuss the clinical need and animal models used to uncover potential novel treatments. There is a very broad range of potential treatment approaches and targets currently being examined as potential anti-relapse therapies. These broadly fit into two categories: 'memory-based' and 'receptor-based' and the authors discuss the key targets here within.Expert opinion: Opioid receptors and ligands have been widely studied, and research into how different opioid subtypes affect behaviours related to addiction (reward, dysphoria, motivation) suggests that they are tractable targets as anti-relapse treatments. Regarding opioid ligands as novel 'anti-relapse' medication targets, research suggests that a 'non-selective' approach to targeting opioid receptors will be the most effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1344
Number of pages12
JournalExpert Opinion on Drug Discovery
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Addiction
  • Buprenorphine
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Reinstatement
  • Relapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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