The role of corticotropin-releasing factor in drug addiction
Sarnyai Z, Shaham Y, Heinrichs SC.
Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology and
Laboratory of Biology of Addictive Diseases,
Rockefeller University, New York, New York.
Pharmacol Rev 2001 Jun; 53(2):209-44


The goal of this article is to summarize available data examining the physiological significance of brain corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) systems in mediating the behavioral and physiological effects of several classes of abused drugs, including opioid and psychostimulant drugs, alcohol and sedative hypnotics, nicotine, and cannabinoids. An initial discussion of CRF neurobiology is followed by consideration of the role of CRF in drug-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, the behavioral effects of drugs (e.g., locomotor activity, anxiogenic-like responses), drug self-administration, drug withdrawal, and relapse to drug-seeking. Subsequently, neurochemical changes in brain CRF in response to acute and chronic drug exposure are examined. A major conclusion derived from the data reviewed is that extrahypothalamic brain CRF systems are critically involved in behavioral and physiological manifestations of drug withdrawal and in relapse to drug-taking behavior induced by environmental stressors. On the other hand, it appears that hypothalamic CRF, via its action on the HPA axis, is involved in the reinforcing effects of cocaine and alcohol, and the locomotor activating effects of psychostimulant drugs. These preclinical data may provide a rationale for the development of CRF-based pharmacotherapies for the treatment of compulsive drug use in humans.
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