After withdrawal from cocaine, the number of certain receptors in the brain linked to cocaine cravings increase over time, according to research online in Nature. The research, in rats, suggests that these receptors could be a potential target for treating relapse.
One of the biggest challenges in treating drug addiction is danger of relapse after quitting. Drug-associated cues can trigger persistent drug cravings that grow stronger the longer the abstinence, but what mediates the increasing reactivity of the brain to these cues is not well understood.
It's known that cocaine-seeking depends on activation of glutamatergic AMPA receptors in the nucleus accumbens. Marina Wolf and colleagues now show that rats that undergo prolonged withdrawal from cocaine have greater numbers of a certain type of synaptic AMPA receptor which leads to the increased reactivity of nucleus accumbens neurons to cocaine-related cues and increased drug-seeking by the animals.
Marina Wolf (Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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