August 17, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Researchers at Linköping University and the German Cancer Research Center DKFZ have discovered the possibility of preventing relapse among cocaine addicts.
Because dopamine-producing nerve cells; part of the brain’s reward system in the midbrain, become more excited with drug use, blocking their glutamate receptors could remove the risk of relapse entirely. They discovered this finding by using a mouse model of cocaine dependence.
"When you take cocaine, the number of glutamate receptors increases, rendering the cell more excitable. When we block this process, we prevent relapses into addiction. This is interesting clinically since that is the phase when we get hold of patients" says the study’s lead author and neurobiologist, David Engblom.
Dopamine becomes more concentrated in the midbrain with the use or abuse of dependence-inducing drugs, such as cocaine, which has a very rapid effect on dopamine levels in the brain. The increased concentration of dopamine produces physical and mental reactions characteristic of a "high".
To terminate this process, patients could be injected with a vaccine that would block glutamate receptors and thus prevent a relapse. It seems like a rather simplistic solution and the research is clearly in its early stages of development, however any research at all that seeks to advance the treatment of addiction is well worth mentioning and investigating further.
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