Tolerance to Alcohol and the Endocannabinoid System

Alcohol dependence is usually accompanied by tolerance to the intoxicating effects of alcohol and by withdrawal symptoms including tremors and confusion when consumption of alcohol ceases. Although important advances have been made in recent years in understanding the mechanisms underlying the development of tolerance to and dependence on alcohol, the exact mechanisms are still elusive. The authors review the role played by the endocannabinoid system in the molecular mechanism involved in the development of alcohol tolerance, which possibly influences alcohol-drinking behaviour. 

The endocannabinoid system comprises cannabinoid receptors, endogenous cannabinoids and the molecules involved in the inactivation of endocannabinoids (uptake and degradation Alcohol and endocannabinoids 

In the brain, the presence of the endocannabinoid signaling system in the thalamus, hippocampus and cortex or in the striatum, substantia nigra and cerebellum supports a role for the endogenous cannabinoid-signalling system in cognitive and motor responses. The anatomical distribution and actions of endocannabinoids is consistent with the behavioural effects of alcohol, including memory disruption, decrease in motor activity, catalepsy, antinociception and hypothermia. Adaptation in several steps of the endocannabinoid system in the brain may play an important role in the development of tolerance to and dependence on alcohol  Over the past seven years, remarkable advances have been made towards our understanding of the role played by the endocannabinoid system in the development of alcohol tolerance and alcohol-drinking behaviour. These studies have provided strong evidence that specific receptors and the endocannabinoid system serve as an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of alcohol tolerance and alcohol-related disorders. Reference; Balapal S. Basavarajappa and
Basalingappa L. Hungund. Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Development of Tolerance to Alcohol. Alcohol & Alcoholism Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 15–24, 2005

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