It has long been hypothesized that conditioning mechanisms play major roles in addiction. Specifically, the associations between rewarding properties of drugs of abuse and the drug context can contribute to future use and facilitate the transition from initial drug use into drug dependency. On the other hand, the self-medication hypothesis of drug abuse suggests that negative consequences of drug withdrawal result in relapse to drug use as an attempt to alleviate the negative symptoms. In this review, we explored these hypotheses and the involvement of the hippocampus in the development and maintenance of addiction to widely abused drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine, alcohol, opiates, and cannabis. Studies suggest that initial exposure to stimulants (i.e., cocaine, nicotine, and amphetamine) and alcohol may enhance hippocampal function and, therefore, the formation of augmented drug-context associations that contribute to the development of addiction. In line with the self-medication hypothesis, withdrawal from stimulants, ethanol, and cannabis results in hippocampus- dependent learning and memory deficits, which suggest that an attempt to alleviate these deficits may contribute to relapse to drug use and maintenance of addiction. Interestingly, opiate withdrawal leads to enhancement of hippocampus- dependent learning and memory. Given that a conditioned aversion to drug context develops during opiate withdrawal, the cognitive enhancement in this case may result in the formation of an augmented association between withdrawalinduced aversion and withdrawal context. Therefore, individuals with opiate addiction may return to opiate use to avoid aversive symptoms triggered by the withdrawal context. Overall, the systematic examination of the role of the hippocampus in drug addiction may help to formulate a better understanding of addiction and underlying neural substrates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience