Nicotine sensitizes the mouse brain to the addictive effects of cocaine, according to recent NIDA-supported research. The results accord with the hypothesis that a person’s initial use of an addictive substance physiologically sensitizes his or her brain to the rewarding and addictive effects of other substances. If the findings carry over to people, then preventing youths from smoking might reduce their vulnerability to cocaine abuse and addiction, and cocaine-dependent individuals might ease their path to recovery by quitting smoking.
Teens who participated in the intervention Strong African American Families‒Teen at age 16 reported fewer conduct problems and depressive symptoms and less substance abuse at age 17‒18, compared to peers exposed to a control intervention.
NIDA-supported research suggests that glucocorticoid receptor levels during early brain development affect the hard wiring of neural circuits that shape an individual’s basic emotional makeup. In mice, overexpression of the glucocorticoid gene in the first weeks after birth increased anxiety and response to cocaine in adulthood. These findings may help researchers understand the genetic background and the developmental trajectory of addiction.
The NIDA-supported Good Behavior Game recently was honored with the 2012 Mentor International Best Practice Award. The game, which focuses on reducing disruptive behaviors in elementary school classrooms, has been shown to prevent drug abuse and other problems in adolescence and young adulthood.
NIDA Program Officer Dr. David Thomas speaks about the intertwined problems of pain and prescription opioid abuse, as well as the research supported by NIDA and the National Institutes of Health to address these problems.
New vaccines that aim to promote recovery from cocaine and heroin abuse showed promise in animal testing. Both vaccines induced rats’ immune system to produce high titers of antibodies that inhibit the target drug from reaching the brain. The rats’ behaviors when given access to the target drug indicated that the vaccines reduced the reinforcing effects that, in recovering people, can cause lapses to turn into relapses.
July 2012 NIDA researchers have developed a computer program that motivates and encourages treatment-seeking when an individual is in a primary care physician’s waiting room. Users of the program, called Video Doctor, enter information on a portable device and receive feedback about health risks related to their drug abuse, along with advice, immediately prior to seeing their physician.
Towns that implemented a drug abuse prevention program called Communities That Care will see a return of $5.30 for each $1 they invested during the 5-year trial of the intervention, according to a cost-benefit analysis. The estimate is based on reductions in smoking and delinquency observed during the fourth year of the study among eighth-graders and the projected total costs of smoking, delinquency, and crime avoided over the lifetimes of study participants.
July 2012 Dr. J. David Jentsch is the recipient of the 2011 Jacob P. Waletzky Memorial Award for Innovative Research in Drug Addiction and Alcoholism. Dr. Jentsch and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, are studying genetic and neurochemical factors that influence individual differences in inhibitory control.