How Adaptation of the Brain to Alcohol Leads to Dependence

A Pharmacological Perspective

About the Course:

The development of alcohol dependence is posited to involve numerous changes in brain chemistry (i.e., neurotransmission) that lead to physiological signs of withdrawal upon abstinence from alcohol as well as promote vulnerability to relapse in dependent people. Studies of these neuroadaptive changes have been aided by the development of animal models of alcohol dependence, withdrawal, and relapse behavior. These animal models, as well as findings obtained in humans, have shed light on the effects that acute and chronic alcohol exposure have on signaling systems involving neurotransmitters as well as on other signaling molecules. Some of these systems are targets of currently available therapeutic agents for alcohol dependence. This publication discusses this field of study.

Journal/Publisher:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Publication Date:

Alcohol Research and Health, Volume 21, Number 4, 2008

Author

Peter Clapp, Ph.D.; Sanjiv V. Bhave, Ph.D.; and Paula L. Hoffman, Ph.D.

About the Author:

Peter Clapp, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow, Sanjiv V. Bhave, Ph.D., is a senior instructor, and Paula L. Hoffman, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado.

Recommended For:

This course is recommended for health care professionals, especially addiction counselors, psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, and nurses who seek knowledge about how adaptation of the brain to alcohol leads to dependence. It is appropriate for intermediate to advanced levels of participants’ knowledge.

Course Objectives:

  1. Discuss the relationship of glutamate systems to alcohol dependence and the involvement of other brain-signaling systems such as serotonin, endogenous cannabinoids, and CREB protein.

  2. Describe animal models used to study neuroadaptation, and discuss signal transmission in the nervous system.

  3. Explain the relationship of alcohol dependence to the opiate systems, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) systems, stress, and corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF).

Exam Questions

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