A tweak in the brain helps in abstaining cocaine, says study

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A tweak in the brain helps in abstaining cocaine, says study

A tweak in the brain helps in abstaining cocaine, says study

Cocaine is one of the most abused and powerful stimulant drugs in the United States, with nearly 1.5 million Americans aged 12 or older being under the influence of this drug in 2014. Though there has been a dramatic depreciation in the use of cocaine, it remains a major public health concern in the U.S. In fact, cocaine still drives most of the emergency department (ED) visits in the country today. Known by a host of monikers, like the champagne of drugs, gold dust, Cadillac of drugs, status stimulant, yuppie drug, etc., cocaine is a powerful addictive stimulant drug with meager medical use.

A common misconception among people is that cocaine possesses comparatively lesser psychological addictive properties than other substances like alcohol or heroin. However, this is not true, as evident from the difficulty faced by a person in trying to quit his or her addiction to it.

With regard to the use of cocaine among teenagers, it was seen that most of them tend to follow a specific pattern. While college-going students concentrate more on abusing alcohol, students who do not attend college seem to be more inclined toward illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana and tobacco.

Due to the increasing role of substances in the general population, especially youngsters, it has become imperative than ever to develop advanced treatment that can nip the problem at the bud. Scientists continue to strive for newer treatments. One such study, discussed below, highlights how changes in the brain can decrease cravings for cocaine.

Higher levels of addiction-triggering protein reduce learning related to drug abuse

Since drug abuse is responsible for altering synaptic connections in the reward circuitry of the brain that leads to addiction by inflicting a range of behavioral changes, the researchers tried to understand how the brain could be targeted to reduce cravings.

A report published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that shedding light on the biochemistry of addiction can play a crucial role in alleviating cocaine use. During the study, scientists experimented by altering the reward system of the brain in mice to make them resistant toward cocaine addiction. They found that compared to the typical mice, the genetically controlled mice did not appear to crave for drugs even after consuming the repetitive doses of the drug.

Apparently, drug-evoked synaptic plasticity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) underlie the number of behavioral changes that are responsible for developing an addiction. Secondly, Cadherin adhesion molecules play a key role in synaptic plasticity underlying different forms of learning and memory.

Some interesting results evolved during the study. Interestingly, Shernaz Bamji, a professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver said that the mice did not move to the room where they were administered cocaine and rather appeared happy exploring all around the cage.

According to experts,  addiction to any form of substances has a lot to do with proteins that affect learning. The genetically engineered mice were designed to produce a high level of proteins known as cadherins. Generally, cadherins, which is present in the brain’s reward circuit, can act like glue by sticking the cells together. Moreover, cadherins play an important role in triggering addiction through enhanced learning and reinforcing the connection and synapses between the brain cells.

In fact, genetic studies have emphasized that people with high levels of cadherins are more prone to drug addiction. However, the researchers in the current study found a very different story. “We thought, hey, more glue, stronger synapses, more learning, more addiction. But what we actually saw was the opposite,” said Bamji. The researchers noted that excessive cadherins sealed the reward circuit of the brain so that they could not get stronger. Although cocaine made the mice feel good, they remained ignorant to cravings for the drug.

Way to sobriety

Although there are a number of medications that marketed heavily as a solution to an addiction or associated symptoms, many of them fail in delivering effective results. On the contrary, it results in worsening or aggravation of the symptoms. However, with appropriate treatment and therapies, it is easy to come out of an addiction smoothly. In fact, behavioral therapy may be a great procedure to treat cocaine addiction. Several professionals have emphasized the importance and effectiveness of different behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), reward-based therapies, etc.

If you are looking for drug addiction treatment centers in Arizona and other related information, you can contact the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline and help your loved ones in getting appropriate treatment. You may chat online or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-576-4147 for accessing more information pertaining to customized treatment programs near you.

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