Brain Molecule Gives Addiction Clue

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Sept. 16 (UPI) — Swedish researchers say they’ve discovered why people who have used cocaine are at greater risk of becoming addicted even after long drug-free periods.

Scientists at Linkoping University say drugs “hijack” the brain’s rewards system that makes it pleasurable to eat and have sex, behaviors necessary for survival and reproduction.

The “hijacking” is extremely long-lived and often leads to relapses into addiction. Researchers say they’ve identified a specific molecule in the brain that plays a major role in “reward” relapses, a university release said Thursday.

In the study, mice that lacked that particular molecule, a receptor for the signal substance glutamate, were taught to ingest cocaine and the effects on them were observed.

“Our findings show that the mice who lacked the receptor were less prone to relapse,” David Engblom, associate professor of neurobiology at Linkoping, said. “This is due the fact that their reaction to reward had not been etched into their memories in the same ways as in normal mice.”

Understanding the mechanisms underlying drug addiction might lead to forms of treatment based on what goes wrong in the brain of an addict, Engblom said.

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