Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 15, pp 2735–2747 | Cite as

Epigenetics: a link between addiction and social environment

  • Duyilemi C. Ajonijebu
  • Oualid Abboussi
  • Vivienne A. Russell
  • Musa V. Mabandla
  • William M. U. Daniels


The detrimental effects of drug abuse are apparently not limited to individuals but may also impact the vulnerability of their progenies to develop addictive behaviours. Epigenetic signatures, early life experience and environmental factors, converge to influence gene expression patterns in addiction phenotypes and consequently may serve as mediators of behavioural trait transmission between generations. The majority of studies investigating the role of epigenetics in addiction do not consider the influence of social interactions. This shortcoming in current experimental approaches necessitates developing social models that reflect the addictive behaviour in a free-living social environment. Furthermore, this review also reports on the advancement of interventions for drug addiction and takes into account the emerging roles of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors in the etiology of drug addiction and that HDAC may be a potential therapeutic target at nucleosomal level to improve treatment outcomes.


Cocaine and alcohol abuse DNA methylation Chromatin remodeling Epigenomic programming and inheritance Environmental stimuli Social stress 



We wish to express our appreciation to the College of Health Sciences (CHS) of University of KwaZulu-Natal for granting a PhD Scholarship to D.C Ajonijebu and a postdoctoral fellowship to O. Abboussi. The authors also wish to acknowledge the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa who supports the research of MV Mabandla and WMU Daniels.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duyilemi C. Ajonijebu
    • 1
  • Oualid Abboussi
    • 1
  • Vivienne A. Russell
    • 1
  • Musa V. Mabandla
    • 1
  • William M. U. Daniels
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Discipline of Human Physiology, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, College of Health SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of PhysiologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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