En español
NIDA

Study shows impact of social interactions on addictive behavior

Science Spotlight

October 15, 2018

Illustration made by Dr. Marco Venniro, NIDA IRPIllustration made by Dr. Marco Venniro, NIDA IRP

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience finds that social interactions can have a profound effect on behaviors related to addiction, and on the brain’s response to drug-associated cues. These findings have implications for people with substance use disorders (SUDs), because it suggests that social interaction can change the activity of specific neuronal circuits that control drug craving and relapse. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by Dr. Marco Venniro from the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The researchers used established animal models of drug addiction to show that when given a choice, rats repeatedly chose social interaction over self-administration of heroin or methamphetamine. This held true even for rats that had previously been using heroin or methamphetamine in a “compulsive” way (like humans with an SUD).

Additionally, all rats robustly chose peer contact over more drug access even when they were continuously housed with their peers. And during prolonged abstinence periods, they were significantly less vulnerable to relapse than rats that simply had their access to drugs removed.  However, some rats resumed drug taking when access to a peer was delayed. The study introduces a novel paradigm to study brain mechanisms of social factors in addiction and could lead to new behavioral and pharmacological treatments for SUDs.

The protective effects of social interaction are more straightforward for rats than for people, but even so, the new findings in rats are in accord with what social scientists have reported for decades -- feelings of connectedness to society can protect some (not all) people against SUDs. The rats that are less strongly protected by social contact could be a model for understanding and treating their human counterparts.

For a copy of the abstract, go to Venniro, M; Zhang, M; Caprioli, D; Golden, SA; Heins, C; Hoots, JK; Morales, M; Epstein, DH; Shaham, Y (2018). Volitional social interaction prevents drug addiction in rat models. Nature Neuroscience.

To see a video of Dr. Marco Venniro, study author, discuss the research findings, go to: Video: Study Shows Impact of Social Interactions on Addictive Behavior.

To read NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow’s blog, go to: New NIDA Research Reveals the Power of Social Reinforcers.

For more information about drug and alcohol relapse prevention, visit NIDA's Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.

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

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.

NIH. . .Turning Discovery Into Health®

News Releases

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

Get this Publication

    Cite this article

    NIDA. (2018, October 15). Study shows impact of social interactions on addictive behavior. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/10/study-shows-impact-social-interactions-addictive-behavior

    press ctrl+c to copy
    Receive Latest Science Articles in your Email!
    You will only receive messages related to Latest Science