OPIOIDREWARD: How distress alters opioid drug effects and abuse liability

As the opioid epidemic escalates, we must ask: why are opioids so addictive?

About the Project

Non-human animal research links addiction with the powerful relief opioids can offer to animals in distress. In humans, epidemiological and clinical studies converge upon social stressors and a poor social support network as key risk factors for addiction. Despite this, it is currently unknown how pre-drug distress might alter opioid drug effects. Tremendous resources are dedicated to charting how people feel after taking a drug, sidestepping the potentially profound influence of how people feel before they take the drug. Here, I will turn the current approach on its head and create a human model to determine the psychological, physiological and brain underpinnings of how social stressors increase opioids’ abuse liability.


In sum, the project aims to achieve a breakthrough in our understanding of how a pre-drug social distress state can alter opioid drug mechanisms. The mechanistic understanding arising from this project could have profound implications for science, as well as for clinical care and new policies designed to contain the opioid epidemic.


Project full title: OPIOIDREWARD: How distress alters opioid drug effects and abuse liability.

Bildet kan inneholde: font, logo.This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 802885).

Published June 27, 2019 12:50 PM - Last modified May 29, 2020 12:20 PM


Principal investigator

Professor Siri Leknes

Project type

Starting Grant 2018

ERC funding

EUR 1,500,000.00

Project duration

60 months

Start date

1 July 2019