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Study finds combined dopamine dysfunction in drug-addicted, schizophrenic patients

Science Spotlight

October 04, 2012

Brain striatumMRI showing the brain’s striatum (Image courtesy Dr. Anissa Abi-Dargham, Columbia University & New York State Psychiatric Institute)

Dopamine release in one area of the brain’s striatum is increased in schizophrenia, whereas drug addiction is associated with decreased dopamine in a neighboring striatal region. Since substance use disorders often occur concurrently with other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, a new NIDA-funded study examined amphetamine-induced dopamine release in patients with comorbid schizophrenia and substance dependence. In this study, dopamine release was reduced in the striatum of comorbid patients exposed to amphetamine, yet patients showed enhanced positive symptoms (i.e., psychotic reaction), as previously observed in schizophrenia. These results suggest that these comorbid patients suffer from a combined dysfunction: a) increased dopamine sensitivity in the part of the striatum responsible for the psychotic symptoms and, based on prior research, b) reduced sensitivity to dopamine in the area of the striatum associated with reward. Such a set of alterations in dopamine release could set up a vicious cycle of using drugs to self-medicate, which in turn may cause or further worsen psychosis.

Better understanding of the brain changes underlying comorbid disorders could lead to improved treatments for both drug addiction and schizophrenia in patients possessing both disorders. This is a vital research area, since failure to treat co-occurring conditions can jeopardize a patient’s chance of recovery.

For a copy of the article abstract, go to: www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/mp2012109a.html. For more information about comorbid addiction and other mental illnesses, go to www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/comorbidity-addiction-other-mental-illnesses/letter-director.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.

Contact:
NIDA Press Office
301-443-6245
media@nida.nih.gov

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2012, October 4). Study finds combined dopamine dysfunction in drug-addicted, schizophrenic patients. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2012/10/study-finds-combined-dopamine-dysfunction-in-drug-addicted-schizophrenic-patients

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