New findings by researchers show that cocaine use can have the effect of priming your brain for relapse, indicating just one more reason why this drug should be avoided. According to the study cocaine use causes the brain to undergo major changes, and this greatly increases your risk of a relapse when you are under stress. University of East Anglia, U.K. researcher Dr. Peter McCormick and his colleagues discovered a new molecular mechanism that occurs in the brain’s reward system, and this affects the relapse risk for those who are recovering from cocaine addiction. The results could also lead to new and innovative ways to treat recovering addicts which could have much lower relapse risks than the methods that are currently used.
The study on cocaine use and relapse risks which identified the new mechanism could revolutionize the way that cocaine addiction si treated in the future. According to McCormick “Relapse among cocaine addicts is a major problem. We wanted to find out what causes it. We had speculated that there might be a direct communication between neuroreceptors controlling stress and reward. When we tested this, we found this to indeed be the case. Our research showed that the release of neuropeptides influences activity in this part of the brain and that profound changes occur at the neuroreceptor level due to exposure to cocaine. We showed that cocaine disrupts the interaction between receptors and these changes could increase the risk of relapse under stressful conditions. Although our study is in rodents, the same receptors have been shown to impact human stress and drug addiction. Cocaine has a relatively unique effect on the brain. However, the reward center is crucial for addictive behaviors.” The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.