Attenuation of drug reward has been the major focus of medication development in the addictions area to date. With the growth of research in the area of cognitive neuroscience, the importance of executive function and inhibitory cognitive control in addictive disorders is becoming increasingly apparent. An emerging strategy in the pharmacotherapy of addictions and other psychiatric disorders involves the use of medications that improve cognitive function. In particular, agents that facilitate inhibitory and attentional control, improve abstraction, planning and mental flexibility could be beneficial in the treatment of substance use disorders. Because there are multiple neurotransmitter systems involved in the regulation of cognitive function, agents from a number of drug classes have been tested. In particular, agents acting through the cholinergic, adrenergic and glutamatergic systems have shown potential for improving cognitive function in a number of psychiatric and neurologic disorders, but most of these agents have not been tested in the treatment of individuals with substance use disorders. This manuscript provides a review of clinical data supporting the use of the major classes of cognitive enhancing agents in substance use disorders. Agents that have shown promise in cognitive enhancement in other disorders, and have a theoretical or mechanistic rationale for application to substance use disorders are also highlighted.
Keywords: Cognition, Addiction, Pharmacotherapy, Medications, Substance Use Disorders, Learning and Memory