Study Supports New Strategy to Fight Cocaine Addiction

Posted on August 22, 2016

Scientists have long struggled to find an effective strategy against cocaine addiction, which is estimated to affect more than two million Americans, resulting annually in about half a million emergency room visits and hundreds of thousands of rehab facility admissions. There is still no FDA-approved drug specifically for treating cocaine addiction.

Addiction researchers know that cocaine produces a huge surge in the levels of dopamine in the “mesocorticolimbic reward system,” where the brain registers pleasurable experiences and wires itself to want them. In rat models, repeated exposure to cocaine—which the animals readily self-administer—causes long-lasting adaptive changes in the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex, two key areas of this reward system.

An international team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has found strong evidence supporting a new strategy against drug addiction. The researchers showed that a compound that inhibits the activity of certain brain-cell receptors can reverse signs of cocaine dependency in rodents.

Prior experiments targeting this receptor, known as the TrkB receptor, produced results that differed greatly according to the brain region involved. The new study is the first to test system-wide delivery—the way drugs are typically given in humans—of a TrkB-blocker, showing that the overall effect is to reverse cocaine dependency.

“I think this study could help revive the idea of targeting TrkB signaling to treat addiction,” said TSRI biologist Candice Contet, senior author of the study.


Source material from The Scripps Research Institute

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