Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Ph.D., Texas A&M University
| drug dependence|| cannabinoids|
| nicotine|| opiods|
| sedative-hypnotics|| behavior|
Drug dependence can devastate individuals, family, friends, public health, and society. Effective therapies for drug dependence take into account environmental, behavioral, and pharmacologic determinants responsible for drug use. Research in my laboratory integrates principles of behavior and receptor theory to identify mechanisms in the nervous system responsible for drug dependence. A related goal is to tease apart pharmacological mechanisms to minimize the dependence potential of drugs and maximize their therapeutic potential. Our research primarily incorporates pre-clinical models that are sensitive to drug dependence and the in vivo pharmacological mechanisms of drugs.
Two ongoing research areas are focusing on cannabinoid and cholinergic pharmacology:
1) Cannabinoids can be separated into cannabis-related drugs, synthetic cannabinoids of abuse marketed under various trade names such as Spice or K2, and endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters in brain and associated degradative enzymes such as fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol lipase. Cannabinoids include drugs that can inhibit these degradative enzymes. We systematically compare the effects of these diverse cannabinoid drugs and evaluate underlying receptor mechanisms to better understand dependence and therapeutic potential.
2) The second area compares the effects of FDA-approved pharmacotherapies of tobacco dependence (nicotine, varenicline, and bupropion) to novel, investigational drugs. We are currently interested in relationships between nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes, intrinsic activity, and behavioral effects of ligands that bind to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (so-called orthosteric ligands) and we are also comparing the effects of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and nicotine acetylcholine receptor modulators to orthosteric agonists. Ultimately, we hope this research informs upon the development of novel drug treatments for tobacco dependence as well as treatments for other diseases associated with cholinergic dysfunction such as cognitive decline.
Lectures and Presentations
'Effects of the cannabinoid JWH-018, a primary component of K2/Spice, in rhesus monkeys', The College on Problems of Drug Dependence, Miami, FL., June 19, 2011