Nicotine addiction is a complex behavioural alteration, in which many neuronal pathways and neurotransmitters are involved. For a long time, dopamine has been considered one of the most important neurotransmitters in mediating the rewarding effects of nicotine. In addition, a great amount of research suggests that the endogenous cannabinoid and opioid systems play an overall modulatory effect on the reward circuitry and participate in the addictive properties of most of the prototypical drugs of abuse. This review focuses on recent behavioural and biochemical data involving these systems in the different processes that contribute to tobacco addiction. A possible role for the endogenous cannabinoid and opioid systems in the rewarding properties of nicotine as well as in the development of nicotine physical dependence and relapse to nicotine-seeking behaviour will be examined. According to preclinical studies, clinical trials suggest that the manipulation of these systems with cannabinoid or opioid antagonists could be a potential therapeutical strategy for treating nicotine addiction.
Keywords: Nicotine, addiction, cannabinoid, opioid, reward, withdrawal syndrome, relapse, self-administration
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