Psychoneuroimmunology and Addictive Disorders: Potential New Therapies

Addictive disorders are often chronic relapsing problems with high health, social, and economic costs. Problems such as alcohol use disorders affect about 76.4 million people globally, and drug use disorders affect about 15.3 million people (Loftis and Huckans, 2013). As complex interactions among genes, environment, and social influences are involved in the substance use disorders (SUDs), understanding of both the mental and the physical mechanisms are necessary for more effective treatments. Studies in psychoneuroimmunology would allow for a more dynamic view of the complexity that involves the central nervous system (CNS), the endocrine and immune systems, and the behavioral elements (Loftis and Huckans, 2013).

Specifically, psychological, CNS, and immunological factors have been associated with therapeutic adherence and responses (Loftis and Huckans, 2013). Psychoneuroimmunological studies may help elucidate the mechanisms underlying SUDs according to the use patterns, substance types, and relapse cycles. The dynamic analysis suggests that the therapeutic strategies can target the cycles of the disorders across the patients’ lifetime (Elkashef et al., 2007).

In addition to behavioral and pharmacological therapies, immunotherapy such as monoclonal antibodies and vaccines have been found to provide promising interventions for nicotine addiction and stimulant use disorders (Elkashef et al., 2007; Loftis and Huckans, 2013). Furthermore, the identification of novel molecular targets may enable the discovery of more effective treatment. Although there are still difficulties in getting successful recovery results, studies in psychoneuroimmunology may provide potential solutions for better interventions.


Loftis JM, Huckans M. Substance use disorders: psychoneuroimmunological mechanisms and new targets for therapy. Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Aug;139(2):289-300.  doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2013.04.011.

Elkashef A, Biswas J, Acri JB, Vocci F. Biotechnology and the treatment of addictive disorders: new opportunities. BioDrugs. 2007;21(4):259-67.

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