Circadian Rhythms and Addiction: Mechanistic Insights and Future Directions

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Abstract

Circadian rhythms are prominent in many physiological and behavioral functions. Circadian disruptions either by environmental or molecular perturbation can have profound health consequences, including the development and progression of addiction. Both animal and humans studies indicate extensive bidirectional relationships between the circadian system and drugs of abuse. Addicted individuals display disrupted rhythms, and chronic disruption or particular chronotypes may increase the risk for substance abuse and relapse. Moreover, polymorphisms in circadian genes and an evening chronotype have been linked to mood and addiction disorders, and recent efforts suggest an association with the function of reward neurocircuitry. Animal studies are beginning to determine how altered circadian gene function results in drug-induced neuroplasticity and behaviors. Many studies suggest a critical role for circadian rhythms in reward-related pathways in the brain and indicate that drugs of abuse directly affect the central circadian pacemaker. In this review, we highlight key findings demonstrating the importance of circadian rhythms in addiction and how future studies will reveal important mechanistic insights into the involvement of circadian rhythms in drug addiction.

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