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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Involvement of the endocannabinoid system in alcohol dependence: The biochemical, behavioral and genetic evidence

Recent advances in the understanding of alcohol dependence suggest that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a key role in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this pathology.

The aim of the present review is to show the currently available biochemical, behavioral and genetic evidence on the involvement of the ECS in alcohol dependence.

Firstly, biochemical studies have shown that both chronic and acute administration of ethanol produce alterations in different elements of this neurotransmission system. Secondly, the pharmacological and genetic manipulation of the ECS in rodents result in altered ethanol-related behavior. Furthermore, rodent strains with different preference for ethanol differ in their ECS state. Also, genetic studies have described that particular polymorphisms in the genes coding for some elements of this system are associated with some phenotypes of alcohol dependence. Finally, the possible efficacy of cannabinoid receptor blockers in the prevention of relapse to alcohol has been tested in clinical trials.

Altogether, these multiple lines of evidence suggest that the ECS is implicated in the development of alcohol abuse and dependence.

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