Nav: Home

Cocaine changes the brain and makes relapse more common in addicts

April 28, 2015

Cocaine use causes 'profound changes' in the brain that lead to an increased risk of relapse due to stress - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

New research published today in The Journal of Neuroscience identifies a molecular mechanism in the reward centre of the brain that influences how recovering cocaine addicts might relapse after stressful events.

Importantly, the study identifies a potential mechanism for protecting against such relapses with treatment.

The research team looked at the effects of cocaine in rat brain cells (in vitro) and in live rats - particularly their 'cocaine seeking' response to stress.

Lead researcher Dr Peter McCormick, from UEA's School of Pharmacy, said: "Relapse among cocaine addicts is a major problem. We wanted to find out what causes it.

"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."
-end-
'Orexin-CRF Receptor Heteromers in the Ventral Tegmental Area as Targets for Cocaine' is published in The Journal of Neuroscience on April 28.

University of East Anglia

Related Stress Articles:

Captive meerkats at risk of stress
Small groups of meerkats -- such as those commonly seen in zoos and safari parks -- are at greater risk of chronic stress, new research suggests.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
Some veggies each day keeps the stress blues away
Eating three to four servings of vegetables daily is associated with a lower incidence of psychological stress, new research by University of Sydney scholars reveals.
Prebiotics may help to cope with stress
Probiotics are well known to benefit digestive health, but prebiotics are less well understood.
Building stress-resistant memories
Though it's widely assumed that stress zaps a person's ability to recall memory, it doesn't have that effect when memory is tested immediately after a taxing event, and when subjects have engaged in a highly effective learning technique, a new study reports.
Stress during pregnancy
The environment the unborn child is exposed to inside the womb can have a major effect on her or his development and future health.
New insights into how the brain adapts to stress
New research led by the University of Bristol has found that genes in the brain that play a crucial role in behavioural adaptation to stressful challenges are controlled by epigenetic mechanisms.
Uncertainty can cause more stress than inevitable pain
Knowing that there is a small chance of getting a painful electric shock can lead to significantly more stress than knowing that you will definitely be shocked.
Stress could help activate brown fat
Mild stress stimulates the activity and heat production by brown fat associated with raised cortisol, according to a study published today in Experimental Physiology.
Experiencing major stress makes some older adults better able to handle daily stress
Dealing with a major stressful event appears to make some older adults better able to cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day stress.

Related Stress Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...