Butyrylcholinesterase in Substance Abuse: An Overview

S. M. Nurulain, A. Adem, S. Munir, R. Habib, S. Awan, F. Anwar, S. Batool

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Substance abuse places a great burden on associated families, communities, and the health care sector. Drug addiction leads to physical traumas, psychiatric disorders, and other neuronal disorders; it causes millions of deaths per year. The rehabilitation in the respective cases includes complex therapeutic treatments along with other measures for recovery. Substance abuse brings about neurochemical imbalances in the brain and develops mainly due to disorders in the dopamine, serotonin, cannabinoid, opioid, glutamate, and GABA receptor systems. Cholinergic neurons are in abundance among all other types of neurons in the brain. During recent time, cross-talks and co-existence of more than one receptor have attracted attention from the scientific community. In addition, a growing preclinical literature reveals a critical role of acetylcholine (ACh) in the experience and progression of the drug use. Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), an enzyme structurally homologous to acetylcholinesterase (AChE), also targets acetylcholine (ACh) and has been implicated in the metabolism of cocaine, heroin, succinylcholine esters, and many other drugs. In addition, the activity of the above enzymes has been associated with neuronal disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease and other psychiatric conditions, in particular depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, etc., and is also involved in some metabolic diseases. The multifaceted neuronal and non-neuronal aspects demand a review of the role of BChE in substance abuse, which has practically not been addressed in the literature, except cocaine addiction. This overview emphasizes and integrates the putative role of BChE in substance abuse. The research gap and future trend of research in addiction therapy will be highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-158
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2020


  • acetylcholine (ACh)
  • acetylcholinesterase (AChE)
  • butyrylcholinesterase (BChE)
  • cholinergic enzymes
  • drug addiction
  • substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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