Researchers are deciphering the effects of cocaine withdrawal in the brain
Researchers have deciphered the emergence of withdrawal symptoms after cocaine use. Scientists from Washington State University, in collaboration with researchers from the European Neuroscientific Institute in Göttingen, found out how withdrawal symptoms develop in the brain after using cocaine.
According to the results of the research team led by Bradley Winters from Washington State University, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) plays a crucial role in cocaine addiction. As the scientists report in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS), CB1 inhibits hyperactivity caused by cocaine in the area of the brain that is important for emotions - the nucleus accumbens. However, this effect of the CB1 also continues when the drug's effects are already waning. Accordingly, the activity in the nucleus accumbens is significantly reduced when cocaine is withdrawn. Those affected are unmotivated and depressed, which can trigger their desire to use cocaine again. The researchers hope that the current findings could make a significant contribution to combating cocaine addiction in the future.
Cocaine changes activity in certain brain regions It has long been known that cocaine has a significant influence on activity in certain brain regions. For example, the drug leads to increased activity in an area of the forebrain (nucleus accumbens), which is crucial for emotions and motivation. Scientists at Washington State University and the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen have now carried out experiments on mice to investigate which effects are triggered at the molecular level by cocaine consumption and withdrawal in the brain. Her research focused on cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), which inhibits communication between nerve cells. "Although the expression of CB1 in the nucleus accumbens is low, manipulation of the CB1 signaling in connection with drug addiction and other psychiatric disorders triggers robust emotional / motivational changes," the researchers report in the journal "PNAS".
Driven and depressed when cocaine is less effective The use of cocaine speeds up the processes in the nucleus accumbens and puts the user "in an extremely satisfying emotional state," explained Bradley Winters. In the experiments with genetically modified mice, cocaine also caused an increased release of CB1, apparently to counteract the hyperactivity in the brain of the gene mice. This is "as if you had to apply the brakes while driving down a steep hill", Winters illustrated the effect. If the effect of the drug wears off, however, the activity of the CB1 does not normalize to the same extent. The brain could not let go of the brakes, so that those affected “now descend a flatter hill, but only at two miles per hour because the foot is still on the brakes,” said the US neuroscientist in a press release from Washington State University . Cocaine users therefore feel listless or sad to depressed as the drug wears off.
Withdrawal symptoms increase the risk of relapse into cocaine addiction. The changed activity in its nucleus accumbens acts as a stumbling block for the emotions and motivation of addicts to withdrawal. Afflicted people feel "terrible and don't want to do anything", Winters explained. Following the ascent, the crash and this feeling of falling bring cocaine users "back to the drug because they want to feel better again and the drug is the only thing." that they still feel motivated for, "the US researcher added. However, based on current knowledge, methods may be developed that" limit the effect of the emotional crash and thus reduce the likelihood of relapse ". (fp)
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