Cocaine and various other drugs of abuse take control of the natural reward circuits in the brain. In part, that is the reason why it is so hard to give up using these substances. In addition to that, relapse rates hover in between 40 to 60 percent which is similar to rates for various other chronic conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and hypertension.
Animal Models to be Used for Identification of Novel Medications to Treat Addictions
Heath Schmidt, University of Pennsylvania behavioral pharmacologist and neuroscientist, does a study of how long-term exposure to drugs such as prescription opioids, nicotine, and cocaine, affect the brain and how these changes trigger relapse in someone who has kicked the habit. The research investigated a novel treatment for cocaine addiction, something that affects around 900,000 people in the United States every year.
Heath Schmidt said that as a basic scientist, he is now interested in how the brain functions over the periods of abstinence from cocaine and various other drugs and how neuro-adaptations in the brain stimulate relapse back to taking of chronic drug. He also said that from the viewpoint of clinicians, they’re searching for medications in a bid to try to fight back relapse. The goal of the research is, as basic scientists, is to make use of animal models of relapse to make identification of novel medications so as to treat cocaine addiction.
Schmidt and his colleagues from Penn Nursing and Penn Medicine have together hypothesized that the neural circuits and neural mechanisms in the brain that play a crucial role in food-seeking might overlap with those that is key to drug-taking.
This recent paper has been published on Neuropsychopharmacology, nature journal.