Research Studies Stress-Related Drug Addiction Relapse

No one sets out to develop an addiction. Yes, the individual may be searching for an escape, but we truly don’t yearn to give up control over our situation. But this is the impact addiction can have, taking away the choice for that individual. With the right treatment, however, that choice can return. A recent Huffington Post report looked to research from Brown University that could help create opportunities for new treatment methods. Researchers involved in this project discovered the exact brain regions within test rats where the neutral steps to a relapse in drug use occur. If the researchers can then stop a crucial step in the process, they may be able to stop a relapse that occurs due to stress. Previous research in this area has already determined that acute stress can contribute to drug abuse. It can also increase the risk of a relapse for addicts recovering from their addictions. This latest study provides critical insights into how stress may trigger the abuse of drugs, which has the opportunity to lead to the creation of more effective addiction treatments. The researchers determined that stress can have a significant impact on the plasticity of the dopamine neuron synapses found in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. This is the region where the neural activities leading to relapse related to stress can take place. Stress for the individual has the potential to activate the KORs (kappa opioid receptors) in the VTA. By blocking these KORs in the test rats, researchers could keep them from relapsing when under stress. While additional research is necessary, this finding is significant for those with addiction problems.

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