Men benefit more than women from nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation because nicotine affects a key neuroreceptor differently in the two sexes, a NIDA-sponsored study suggests. The findings highlight the need for alternative therapies for women smokers, and point to the female hormone progesterone as a potential therapeutic target.
Patients were more likely to take a rapid HIV test when substance abuse treatment programs offered the test onsite rather than referred for offsite testing. Patients were equally likely to accept and learn their HIV status whether the offer of onsite testing was accompanied by 30 minutes of risk reduction counseling or by 5 minutes of brief information on the testing procedure. Onsite testing accompanied by brief information was cost effective, taking into account the projected lifetime costs of treatment and the gains in health and longevity for detected cases.
Marijuana-dependent outpatients who were treated with the medication gabapentin in a pilot clinical trial reduced their cannabis use more and reported fewer symptoms of drug withdrawal than patients who received a placebo.
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.
Several factors contribute to treatment professionals’ stress and burnout, including how much influence they feel they have in their organization and their caseload. Surprisingly, a NIDA-supported study found that the link between staff stress and burnout was weaker in programs with higher patient caseloads than those with lower caseloads. In addition, program administrators can help counselors reduce their stress by giving them a voice in organizational policies and procedures.
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.
NIDA-funded researchers have gathered evidence that brief interventions can help adolescents move away from drug use. In a clinical trial, middle and high school students markedly reduced their substance use following two 60-minute sessions that combined motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy.
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.
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.