On the Horizon: Addiction

The information contained on this page is for general information purposes only. The information below describes what is on the horizon for molecular imaging in understanding addiction and is currently being researched and/or has limited use at this time until approved.


Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.  Examples include opioid use disorder, nicotine dependence, cocaine dependence, and alcoholism.  PET and molecular imaging brain imaging studies have been critically important in helping us to understand the abnormal communications between brain cells that drive these abnormal behaviors. These techniques permit scientists to see and measure changes in different neurotransmitters, a group of chemical that carry an impulse from one to neuron to another and their corresponding receptors.  Examples of neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.  As our understanding of the neurobiology driving this group of diseases evolves, PET and molecular imaging is poised to continue to play a prominent role in diagnosis and treatment.

FIGURE. Mean 2-18F-FA VT/fP PET images demonstrating lower 2-18F-FA binding in subgroup with slower hepatic metabolism of nicotine. Mean PET images for normal metabolizers (left) and those with slower rates of hepatic nicotine metabolism (right) were spatially normalized to same template.