Research in my laboratory integrates principles of behavior and receptor theory to identify central nervous system mechanisms responsible for drug dependence. We also investigate novel pharmacological strategies that maximize therapeutic potential and minimize abuse and dependence liability. We combine behavioral and physiological approaches, receptor-selective ligands, and quantitative analyses of drug interactions. We are interested in several pharmacological classes of abused drugs.
Cannabinoids, for example, include cannabis-derived tetrahydrocannabinols, numerous synthetic cannabinoids, and endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters. We systematically compare the effects of cannabinoids and evaluate underlying receptor mechanisms to better understand dependence and therapeutic potential.
Cholinergic drugs of interest include FDA-approved smoking cessation aids such as nicotine, varenicline, and bupropion. We compare the effects of smoking cessation aids and investigational nicotinic acetylcholine receptor drugs to better understand relationships between nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes, intrinsic activity (i.e., efficacy), and behavioral effects. Most recently, we are joining investigators in the Departments of Medicinal Chemistry (McCurdy), Pharmaceutics (Avery), and Pharmacodynamics (McLaughlin, Peris) to evaluate the in vitro and in vivo pharmacology of kratom and its derivatives which have proven therapeutic utility in the reduction of opioid dependence.