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Addiction’s Flip Side

July 2, 2013

Circuits in the brain linked to drug withdrawal’s unpleasant side effects may become targets for treatment.



Drug withdrawal and the brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cocaine users may start out chasing a high. But over time, they often take the drug just to escape the awful withdrawal symptoms. Scripps Research Institute neurobiologist Marisa Roberto and her colleagues are studying two circuits in the brain associated with stress and feeling bad. They found that they became overactive in cocaine-addicted rats going through withdrawal, and that blocking them alleviated the symptoms. Research associate Scott Edwards says this has promise for drug treatment programs.

SCOTT EDWARDS (Scripps Research Institute):

So the idea is that if we can selectively block the successive recruitment of these anti-reward, or brain stress circuits, that we can return the drug addict to a state of normalcy.

The researchers note that attacking the pleasure response to drugs hasn’t been very successful, since it robs the user of normal pleasures as well. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Cocaine users continue to take the drug in part to avoid the devastating withdrawal symptoms. (Jupiter Images)