Opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are two highly prevalent substance-related disorders worldwide. Co-use of the substances is also quite prevalent, yet there are no pharmacological treatment approaches specifically designed to treat co-morbid OUD and AUD. Here, the authors critically summarize OUD, AUD and opioid/alcohol co-use and their current pharmacotherapies for treatment. They also review the mechanisms of action of opioids and alcohol within the brain reward circuitry and discuss potential combined mechanisms of action and resulting neuroadaptations. Pharmacotherapies that aim to treat AUD or OUD that may be beneficial in the treatment of co-use are also highlighted. Preclinical models assessing alcohol and opioid co-use remain sparse. Lasting neuroadaptations in brain reward circuits caused by co-use of alcohol and opioids remains largely understudied. In order to fully understand the neurobiological underpinnings of alcohol and opioid co-use and develop efficacious pharmacotherapies, the preclinical field must expand its current experimental paradigms of ‘single drug’ use to encompass polysubstance use. Such studies will provide insights on the neural alterations induced by opioid and alcohol co-use, and may help develop novel pharmacotherapies for individuals with co-occurring alcohol and opioid use disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)