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Friday, May 1, 2015

Relapse Among Cocaine Addicts Linked to Stress

Recovering from cocaine addiction can be extremely difficult. Among the different addictions that afflict people world-wide, cocaine addicts are highly prone to relapse. New research suggests that the high incidence of relapse among cocaine users may be the result of stress due to ‘profound changes’ in the brain, Science Daily reports.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia’s (UEA), showed that a molecular mechanism located in the reward center of the brain influences how recovering cocaine addicts might relapse after stressful events. The research may have identified a mechanism which could deter relapses with treatment.

"Relapse among cocaine addicts is a major problem. We wanted to find out what causes it,” said study lead researcher from the UEA School of Pharmacy, Dr. Peter McCormick.

Dr. McCormick adds:

"Neuropeptides are messenger molecules that carry information between neurons in the brain. They form the brain's communications system.

"We looked at the interaction between two particular neuropeptides in the part of the brain that is to do with reward, motivation and drug addiction among other things.

"We had speculated that there might be a direct communication between neuroreceptors controlling stress and reward. When we tested this, we found this to indeed be the case.

"Our research showed that the release of neuropeptides influences activity in this part of the brain and that profound changes occur at the neuroreceptor level due to exposure to cocaine.

"We showed that cocaine disrupts the interaction between receptors and these changes could increase the risk of relapse under stressful conditions.

"Importantly, we identify a potential mechanism for protection against such relapse. "By restoring the broken interaction, we may be able to minimize stress-driven relapse in addicts. This research lays the groundwork for the development of such approaches.

"Although our study is in rodents, the same receptors have been shown to impact human stress and drug addiction.

"Cocaine has a relatively unique effect on the brain. However, the reward centre is crucial for addictive behaviours.

"Studies on post-traumatic stress disorder have shown traumatic events can have profound influences on receptors in this region of the brain, perhaps rendering soldiers more prone to addiction. Although speculative, it would not surprise me to see similar results in other situations, whether drug or stress related."

The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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