The Role of the Ghrelin System in Drug Addiction

Lia J. Zallar, Mehdi Farokhnia, Brendan J. Tunstall, Leandro F. Vendruscolo, Lorenzo Leggio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the past years, a significant volume of research has implicated the appetitive hormone ghrelin in the mechanisms underlying drug use and addiction. From a neuroscientific standpoint, ghrelin modulates both reward and stress pathways, two key drivers of substance use behaviors. Previous investigations support a connection between the ghrelin system and alcohol, stimulants, and tobacco use in both animals and humans, while the research on opioids and cannabis is scarce. In general, upregulation of the ghrelin system seems to enhance craving for drugs as well as substances use. On the other hand, acute and chronic exposure to drugs of abuse influences the ghrelin system at different levels. This chapter summarizes the literature on the relationship between the ghrelin system and substance-related behaviors. We also review recent work investigating the ghrelin system as a potential pharmacological target for treating substance use disorders and discuss the need for additional research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Review of Neurobiology
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInternational Review of Neurobiology
ISSN (Print)0074-7742
ISSN (Electronic)2162-5514


  • Addiction
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Craving
  • Ghrelin
  • Nicotine
  • Opioid
  • Reward
  • Stimulant
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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