November 2011 In a new series of studies tracing the molecular events that occur in the brain as memories are formed and preserved, researchers find that certain epigenetic changes may promote vulnerability to relapse.
While viewing images of cigarettes, smokers reported milder cravings when they shifted their focus from the pleasures of smoking to its harmful effects. Brain imaging showed a correlation between the reductions in craving and altered activity levels in regions associated with emotional regulation and reward.
The immune system has an extraordinary ability to recognize compounds foreign to the body and eliminate them. NIDA-sponsored scientists are working to harness this ability to create vaccines that will protect individuals against the psychogenic and addictive effects of abused drugs. This animation shows one of the most promising strategies, which has already yielded partial success in producing effective vaccines against nicotine, cocaine, and other drugs.
Clinical trials of N-acetylcysteine to help people recovering from drug abuse avoid relapse have demonstrated only moderate efficacy. New NIDA-supported research shows that while a low dose of the medication activates receptors associated with lowered drug-seeking behavior, a higher dose appears to activate receptors associated with increased drug-seeking behavior. The result suggests that a medication or combination of medications that stimulate the receptor GluR2/3 and block mGluR5 may work better than N-acetylcysteine alone.
When the goal is to avoid using alcohol and illicit substances after being released from jail, it’s who one’s friends are that counts most. Self-control is important because it helps a person have the right kind of friends.
More than half of heroin-addicted patients treated with naltrexone via an implanted delivery device maintained abstinence throughout a 6-month clinical trial in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The implant device, which releases a steady dose of naltrexone continuously for 2 months, averted relapse to heroin use three times as effectively as daily oral doses of the medication.
A brain response occurs in the nucleus accumbens when rats encounter a cue that they associate with previous cocaine self-administration, but not a cue associated with a pleasurable non-drug experience. Moreover, the response correlates in time and intensity with the animals’ cue-induced relapse to cocaine-seeking.