Brain cells that suppress drug cravings may be the secret to better addiction medicines
Even after decades of research and study, there is no surefire cure for drug or alcohol addiction. In fact, most existing treatment methods lead to long-term recovery less than 50% of the time. Everything from self-initiated cold turkey detoxification to full-service 90-day inpatient residential treatments have yet to achieve consistently high success rates. Scientists have been able to identify plenty of factors that trigger relapse, so one researcher decided to start there.
Nobuyoshi Suto, Ph.D, of Scripps Research's Department of Neuroscience, and his team decided to take a new approach to their research in addiction medicine. They began to explore how the neurological responses to environmental stimuli that suppress cravings. Much of the existing literature on addiction and the brain is focused on opiates, so Suto looked at alcohol and cocaine instead.
Suto and his team hope that their research will contribute to better, more effective addiction treatment by uncovering more of the brain's mechanisms. Suto explains that there has been little success with medications that counteract the brain's processes that lead to relapse. Treatments that don't use medication have a difficult time overcoming addiction triggers as well, he continues, which is why his team took an alternate approach, exploring what happens in the brain's center for impulse control in the absence of addiction triggers.
Although additional research will build on the findings, the results of the study, which was performed on male rats, conclusively establish that certain neurons that respond to omission cues act together as an ensemble to suppress relapses with cocaine and alcohol, according to Suto. The objective is to ultimately identify a chemical, gene, or protein in those ensembles that can be manipulated with medication. If Suto's team can advance this treatment idea, it could be a game changer for the nearly 20 million American adults battling the disease of addiction.
This research was financially supported by the Extramural and Intramural funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Health, R21DA033533 (N.S.), R01DA037294 (N.S.), R01AA023183 (N.S.), R01AA021549 (F.W.), ZIADA000467 (B.T.H.), N01DA59909 (G.I.E.). A.L. and H.N. were supported by Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award from National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Health, USA: T32AA007456 (PIs, Drs. Loren "Larry" Parsons and Michael Taffe).
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Materials provided by Scripps Research Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.