Shaping vulnerability to addiction – the contribution of behavior, neural circuits and molecular mechanisms

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Abstract

Substance use disorders continue to impose increasing medical, financial and emotional burdens on society in the form of morbidity and overdose, family disintegration, loss of employment and crime, while advances in prevention and treatment options remain limited. Importantly, not all individuals exposed to abused substances effectively develop the disease. Genetic factors play a significant role in determining addiction vulnerability and interactions between innate predisposition, environmental factors and personal experiences are also critical. Thus, understanding individual differences that contribute to the initiation of substance use as well as on long-term maladaptations driving compulsive drug use and relapse propensity is of critical importance to reduce this devastating disorder. In this paper, we discuss current topics in the field of addiction regarding individual vulnerability related to behavioral endophenotypes, neural circuits, as well as genetics and epigenetic mechanisms. Expanded knowledge of these factors is of importance to improve and personalize prevention and treatment interventions in the future.

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