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Reconsidering GHB: orphan drug or new model antidepressant?


Bosch, O G; Quednow, B B; Seifritz, E; Wetter, T C (2012). Reconsidering GHB: orphan drug or new model antidepressant? Journal of Psychopharmacology, 26(5):618-628.

Abstract

For six decades, the principal mode of action of antidepressant drugs is the inhibition of monoamine re-uptake from the synaptic cleft. Tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the new generation of dual antidepressants all exert their antidepressant effects by this mechanism. In the early days of the monoaminergic era, other efforts have been made to ameliorate the symptoms of depression by pharmacological means. The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system was and possibly still is one of the main alternative drug targets. Gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB) was developed as an orally active GABA analogue. It was tested in animal models of depression and human studies. The effects on sleep, agitation, anhedonia and depression were promising. However, the rise of benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants brought GHB out of the scope of possible treatment alternatives. GHB is a GABA(B) and GHB receptor agonist with a unique spectrum of behavioural, neuroendocrine and sleep effects, and improves daytime sleepiness in various disorders such as narcolepsy, Parkinson's disease and fibromyalgia. Although it was banned from the US market at the end of the 1990s because of its abuse and overdose potential, it later was approved for the treatment of narcolepsy. New research methods and an extended view on other neurotransmitter systems as possible treatment targets of antidepressant treatment brought GHB back to the scene. This article discusses the unique neurobiological effects of GHB, its misuse potential and possible role as a model substance for the development of novel pharmacological treatment strategies in depressive disorders.

For six decades, the principal mode of action of antidepressant drugs is the inhibition of monoamine re-uptake from the synaptic cleft. Tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the new generation of dual antidepressants all exert their antidepressant effects by this mechanism. In the early days of the monoaminergic era, other efforts have been made to ameliorate the symptoms of depression by pharmacological means. The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system was and possibly still is one of the main alternative drug targets. Gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB) was developed as an orally active GABA analogue. It was tested in animal models of depression and human studies. The effects on sleep, agitation, anhedonia and depression were promising. However, the rise of benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants brought GHB out of the scope of possible treatment alternatives. GHB is a GABA(B) and GHB receptor agonist with a unique spectrum of behavioural, neuroendocrine and sleep effects, and improves daytime sleepiness in various disorders such as narcolepsy, Parkinson's disease and fibromyalgia. Although it was banned from the US market at the end of the 1990s because of its abuse and overdose potential, it later was approved for the treatment of narcolepsy. New research methods and an extended view on other neurotransmitter systems as possible treatment targets of antidepressant treatment brought GHB back to the scene. This article discusses the unique neurobiological effects of GHB, its misuse potential and possible role as a model substance for the development of novel pharmacological treatment strategies in depressive disorders.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Neuroscience Center Zurich
04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Integrative Human Physiology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:16 Dec 2011 12:49
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:13
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0269-8811
Publisher DOI:10.1177/0269881111421975
PubMed ID:21926421
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-52636

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