Endocannabinoid contributions to alcohol habits and motivation: Relevance to treatment

Carol A. Gianessi, Stephanie M. Groman, Summer L. Thompson, Ming Jiang, Mario van der Stelt, Jane R. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Individuals with alcohol use disorder exhibit compulsive habitual behaviors that are thought to be, in part, a consequence of chronic and persistent use of alcohol. The endocannabinoid system plays a critical role in habit learning and in ethanol self-administration, but the role of this neuromodulatory system in the expression of habitual alcohol seeking is unknown. Here, we investigated the role of the endocannabinoid system in established alcohol habits using contingency degradation in male C57BL/6 mice. We found that administration of the novel diacyl glycerol lipase inhibitor DO34, which decreases the biosynthesis of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), reduced habitual responding for ethanol and ethanol approach behaviors. Moreover, administration of the endocannabinoid transport inhibitor AM404 or the cannabinoid receptor type 1 antagonist AM251 produced similar reductions in habitual responding for ethanol and ethanol approach behaviors. Notably, AM404 was also able to reduce ethanol seeking and consumption in mice that were insensitive to lithium chloride-induced devaluation of ethanol. Conversely, administration of JZL184, a monoacyl glycerol lipase inhibitor that increases levels of 2-AG, increased motivation to respond for ethanol on a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. These results demonstrate an important role for endocannabinoid signaling in the motivation to seek ethanol, in ethanol-motivated habits, and suggest that pharmacological manipulations of endocannabinoid signaling could be effective therapeutics for treating alcohol use disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12768
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare no conflict of interest. This study was supported by public health service grant AA012870 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Additional support was provided by DA041480, DA043443 from the National Institute on Drug Addiction, a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression award, and the Charles B.G. Murphy Fund. This work was funded in part by the State of Connecticut, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, but this publication does not express the views of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services or the State of Connecticut. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for the Study of Addiction


  • 2-arachidonoyl glycerol
  • addiction
  • alcohol
  • contingency degradation
  • endocannabinoid
  • habit


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