New Insights Into How Stress and Other Factors Increase Risk of Drug Addiction Relapse
Findings offer promising new leads for better understanding of brain health and addiction
CHICAGO — Researchers are uncovering new evidence about how stress and other factors lead to brain changes that increase the risk of relapse from a cocaine addiction. These findings have potential implications for the development of more effective treatments for cocaine and other drug addictions, which affect millions of people around the world. The research was presented at Neuroscience 2015, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Currently, there are no effective pharmacological therapies for cocaine or other drug addictions, and existing rehabilitation programs have low success rates. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that up to 60 percent of Americans who undergo treatment for drug addictions experience a relapse within a year.
Today’s new findings show that:
- People with a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse exhibit heightened brain responses to drug-related visual cues, a factor that may increase their risk of drug-addiction relapse (Paul Regier, abstract 315.05, see attached summary).
- Withdrawal from cocaine triggers an overexpression of certain molecules within neurons in mice, which increases cocaine-seeking behavior (Michael Cahill, abstract 506.14, see attached summary).
- Chronic stress during early withdrawal from cocaine addiction intensifies subsequent drug cravings in rats, making relapse more likely (Jessica Loweth, abstract 315.20, see attached summary).
- Stimulating a specific reward pathway in the brain decreased drug relapse without affecting mood in rats (Amy Loriaux, abstract 51.10, see attached summary).
“Changes in brain circuitry caused by stress and other factors play an important and incredibly complex role in the development of drug addiction — and in the frustratingly difficult process of overcoming an addiction,” said Peter Kalivas, PhD, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina. “These latest findings are deepening our understanding of the brain circuitry underlying drug addiction and suggesting new possibilities for more effective preventions and treatments.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as well as other private and philanthropic organizations. Find out more about the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie drug addiction at BrainFacts.org.