Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder that is characterized by a compulsion to take drug regardless of the adverse consequences that may ensue. Although the involvement of mesoaccumbal dopamine neurons in the initiation of drug abuse is well-established, neuroadaptations within the limbic cortical- striatopallidal circuit that occur as a consequence of repeated drug use are thought to lead to the behavioral dysregulation that characterizes addiction. Opioid receptors and their endogenous ligands are enriched in brain regions comprising this system and are, thus, strategically located to modulate neurotransmission therein. This article will review data suggesting an important role of mu-opioid receptor (MOPr) and delta opioid receptor (DOPr) systems in mediating the rewarding effects of several classes of abused drugs and that aberrant activity of these opioid systems may not only contribute to the behavioral dysregulation that characterizes addiction but to individual differences in addiction vulnerability.
Keywords: Opioid receptors, drug self-administration, enkephalin, endorphin, cocaine, ethanol, morphine
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