It takes a supreme effort of will to overcome an addiction, but even more so to avoid relapse. The effect of relapse can hugely effect quality of life or even prove fatal.
To help give recovering addicts a fighting chance, researchers at University of Washington have been studying whether changing the activity of neurons in the nucleus accumbens, the region of the brain that regulates addictive behaviour, can help to prevent relapse.
They achieved this targeted change in brain activity using chemogenetic receptors in a study conducted on rats who had been exposed to heroin.
Using this tool, they were able to affect the relapse behaviour of the rats identified as ‘high-risk’. Further research will be needed to determine what motivated drug use among only some of the rats.
The research is a positive indicator that a medication can be developed to help prevent relapse of any addiction, with fewer side effects than current treatments.
“I envision and hope we could make a pill that decreases relapse but still keeps people motivated for other things, and feeling good,” said senior author Susan Ferguson.
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