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Opioid addiction has devastating health and socio-economic consequences, and current pharmacotherapy is limited and often accompanied by side effects, thus novel treatment is warranted. Traditionally, the neurohypophyseal peptide oxytocin (OT) is known fo

Posted on May 23, 2020 at 9:35 AM

Oxytocin and opioid addiction revisited: old

drug, new applications

Correspondence Alexis Bailey, Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education, St George’s University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK.

E-mail: abailey@sgul.ac.uk

Received 11 December 2016; Revised 1 February 2017; Accepted 13 February 2017

Panos Zanos1,2, Polymnia Georgiou1,2, Carol Weber1

, Fiona Robinson4

, Christos Kouimtsidis4

,

Ramin Niforooshan4 and Alexis Bailey1,3

1

School of Biosciences and Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK, 2

Department of Psychiatry,

University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, 3

Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education, St George’s University of London,

London, UK, and 4

Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Chertsey, Surrey, UK

Opioid addiction has devastating health and socio-economic consequences, and current pharmacotherapy is limited and often

accompanied by side effects, thus novel treatment is warranted. Traditionally, the neurohypophyseal peptide oxytocin (OT) is

known for its effects on mediating reward, social affiliation and bonding, stress and learning and memory. There is now strong

evidence that OT is a possible candidate for the treatment of drug addiction and depression-addiction co-morbidities. This review

summarizes and critically discusses the preclinical evidence surrounding the consequences of pharmacological manipulation of

the oxytocinergic system on opioid addiction-related processes, as well as the effects of opioids on the OT system at different

stages of the addiction cycle. The mechanisms underlying the effects of OT on opioid addiction, including OT’ interaction with

the monoaminergic, glutamatergic, opioidergic systems and its effect on the amygdala, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis

and on memory consolidation of traumatic memories, are also reviewed. We also review clinical evidence on the effects of

intranasal OT administration on opioid-dependent individuals and discuss the therapeutic potential along with the limitations

that accompany OT-based pharmacotherapies. Review of these studies clearly indicates that the OT system is profoundly affected

by opioid use and abstinence and points towards the OT system as an important target for developing pharmacotherapies for the

treatment of opioid addiction and co-existing affective disorders, thereby preventing relapse. Therefore, there is a clear need for

clinical studies assessing the efficacy of OT-based pharmacotherapies in opioid addiction.

LINKED ARTICLES

This article is part of a themed section on Emerging Areas of Opioid Pharmacology. To view the other articles in this section

visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v175.14/issuetoc

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