Effects of Adolescent Substance Use Disorders on Central Cholinergic Function

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Adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, in which the individual undergoes significant cognitive, behavioral, physical, emotional, and social developmental changes. During this period, adolescents engage in experimentation and risky behaviors such as licit and illicit drug use. Adolescents' high vulnerability to abuse drugs and natural reinforcers leads to greater risk for developing substance use disorders (SUDs) during adulthood. Accumulating evidence indicates that the use and abuse of licit and illicit drugs during adolescence and emerging adulthood can disrupt the cholinergic system and its processes. This review will focus on the effects of peri-adolescent nicotine and/or alcohol use, or exposure, on the cholinergic system during adulthood from preclinical and clinical studies. This review further explores potential cholinergic agents and pharmacological manipulations to counteract peri-adolescent nicotine and/or alcohol abuse.