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Keywords:

  • agonist therapy;
  • dopamine (DA);
  • serotonin (5-HT);
  • releasing agent;
  • stimulant dependence

Abstract: The abuse of illicit stimulants is a worldwide crisis, yet few medicines are available for treating stimulant addiction. We have advocated the idea of “agonist therapy” for cocaine dependence. This strategy involves administration of stimulant-like medications (e.g., monoamine releasers) to alleviate cocaine withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. A chief limitation of this strategy is that many candidate medicines possess high abuse liability due to activation of mesolimbic dopamine (DA) neurons in reward pathways. Evidence suggests that serotonin (5-HT) neurons can provide an inhibitory influence over mesolimbic DA neurons. Thus, it might be predicted that the balance between DA and 5-HT transmission is a critical variable when developing medications with reduced stimulant side effects. In this article, we review recent studies from our laboratory that examined neurochemical and behavioral effects of a series of monoamine releasers which displayed different potencies at DA and 5-HT transporters. The data show that increasing 5-HT release can attenuate stimulant effects mediated by DA release, such as motor stimulation and drug self-administration. Our findings support the work of others and indicate that elevated synaptic 5-HT can dampen certain behavioral effects of DA-releasing agents. Moreover, the relationship between DA and 5-HT releasing potency is an important determinant in developing new agonist medications with reduced stimulant properties.