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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Understanding the Mind of a Cocaine Addict

Addiction has puzzled scientist for a very long time, but, advances in technology have allowed researchers to make breakthroughs into the nature of addiction and they are finding new ways to counter the chemistry in an addict's brain. Every drug causes different reactions inside the brain; those reactions need to be studied in order to help us understand the many complexities of addiction. New research has shown that a protein known for its role in Rett syndrome, a rare genetic brain disorder, also works to regulate cocaine addiction. Despite the fact that the research was done on rats and not humans, scientists are confident that they are on the right track.

"In a study published today in Nature Neuroscience, Florida researchers were able to mimic in rats a human's transition to cocaine addiction: the transition, that is, from controlled intake of the drug to compulsive intake. Rats that were exposed to cocaine over time saw increases in their levels of the protein MeCP2 expressed in the dorsal striatum, a region of the brain involved in executive function", reported Time Magazine. "These MeCP2 increases, it seems, then led to further cocaine cravings. Animals with access to cocaine, but in which MeCP2 levels were knocked down again to normal levels, appeared to lose interest in the drug -- and they vastly reduced their self-administered drug intake".

The new research is promising and the possibility exists that one day there will be drugs that counter the cravings that cocaine addicts experience. Suboxone is a drug that is used on heroin addicts to help with the cravings they experience while detoxing and it has helped many patients transition from addiction to recovery; hopefully down the road a drug like Suboxone will exist for cocaine addicts. The more we understand about the neurochemistry of addiction the better equipped we will be to treat it.

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