Animal models have long implicated dopamine in stress-induced craving for a variety of addictive substances. However, translational studies of dopamine, stress and craving in humans are lacking. Based on the animal literature, this study's objective was to test the hypothesis that cigarette smokers carrying specific variants in dopamine-related genes would have heightened levels of cigarette craving following exposure to a laboratory stressor. Cigarette craving induced by controlled exposure to a laboratory stressor was assessed in healthy adult smokers (n = 108) recruited by advertisement. Significantly stronger stress-induced cigarette craving was found for individuals carrying either the DRD2 (D2 dopamine receptor gene) A1, or the SLC6A3 (dopamine transporter gene) nine-repeat allelic variants. Stress-induced craving was markedly higher for those carrying both alleles, compared to those with neither, consistent with the separate biological pathways involved (receptor, transporter). Findings provide strong support for the possibility that dopamine involvement in stress-induced craving well established in animal models also applies to humans, and suggest a potential genetic risk factor for persistent smoking behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine