New research from the University of Canterbury has found a chemically activated brain receptor that can end cocaine cravings.
The newly discovered receptor is called the trace amine-associated receptor 1 and is present in the areas of the brain that appear to be most affected by drugs. When this receptor is activated, it appears to completely remove the cravings for cocaine.
"So far the results indicate that activation of the trace amine receptor completely eliminates the self-administration of methamphetamine in rodents as it does for cocaine. We will publish the full results soon,” said Canterbury Psychology researcher Dr Juan Canales.
"It remains to be seen whether activation of this recently discovered receptor provides relief for other forms of addiction too, including alcohol, nicotine and even compulsive eating. This is something we are going to investigate in the near future,’’ Dr Canales says.
"By releasing dopamine, drugs create a shortcut to get to the brain’s pleasure centres. Normally dopamine is released when we experience something really exciting. This is how the brain learns and changes our behaviour to produce those outcomes again. Dopamine signals reward in certain situations but is also a teaching signal." Canales said.
There is a good chance that this research could lead to treatments for a number of amphetamines. This is because the scientists have found that, when the receptor is activated, it prevents cocaine from releasing dopamine. This removes the incentive to take cocaine and future cravings.
Better still, once someone has been cocaine free for a time, reactivating the receptor actually stops cocaine seeking behaviour. If this were used in a treatment, it could significantly reduce or even prevent relapse.
Currently the researchers are working with rodents but if the research continues to show promise, it may move into human trials. This could revolutionise cocaine addiction treatment and help fight the cocaine epidemic going on in both North America and Europe.
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