Discovery of neural mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders within the aging and addiction fields has been a main focus of the National Institutes of Health. However, there is a dearth of knowledge regarding the biological interactions of aging and addiction, which may have important influences on progression of disease and treatment outcomes in aging individuals with a history of chronic drug use. Thus, there is a large gap in these fields of research, which has slowed progress in understanding and treating substance use disorders (SUDs) as well as age-related diseases, specifically in women who experience precipitous reproductive cycle transitions during aging. The goal of this review is to highlight overlap of SUDs and age-related processes with a specific focus on menopause and smoking, and identify critical gaps. We have narrowed the focus of the review to smoking, as the majority of findings on hormonal and aging influences on drug use have come from this area of research. Further, we highlight female-specific issues such as transitional menopause and exogenous estrogen use. These issues may impact drug use cessation as well as outcomes with aging and age-related neurodegenerative diseases in women. We first review clinical studies for smoking, normal aging, and pathological aging, and discuss the few aging-related studies taking smoking history into account. Conversely, we highlight the dearth of clinical smoking studies taking age as a biological variable into account. Preclinical and clinical literature show that aging, age-related pathological brain disease, and addiction engage overlapping neural mechanisms. We hypothesize that these putative drivers interact in meaningful ways that may exacerbate disease and hinder successful treatment outcomes in such comorbid populations. We highlight areas where preclinical studies are needed to uncover neural mechanisms in aging and addiction processes. Collectively, this review highlights the need for crosstalk between different fields of research to address medical complexities of older adults, and specifically women, who smoke.

References

PubMed