Commonalities in addictive behavior, such as craving, stimuli-driven drug seeking, and a high propensity for relapse following abstinence, have pushed for a unified theory of addiction that encompasses most abused substances. This unitary theory has recently been challenged – citing distinctions in structural neural plasticity, biochemical signaling, and neural circuitry to argue that addiction to opioids and psychostimulants is behaviorally and neurobiologically distinct. Recent more selective examination of drug-induced plasticity has highlighted that these two drug classes promote an overall reward circuitry signaling overlap through modifying excitatory synapses in the nucleus accumbens – a key constituent of the reward system. We discuss adaptations in presynaptic/postsynaptic and extrasynaptic glutamate signaling produced by opioids and psychostimulants, and their relevance to circuit remodeling and addiction-related behavior – arguing that these core neural adaptations are important targets for developing pharmacotherapies to treat addiction to multiple drugs.
- nucleus accumbens