Cocaine: Perceived as a reward by the brain?

May 19, 2009,

Cocaine is one of the oldest drugs known to humans, and its abuse has become widespread since the end of the 19th century. At the same time, we know rather little about its effects on the human brain or the mechanisms that lead to cocaine addiction. The latest article by Dr. Marco Leyton, of the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre, which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry on May 15, 2009, not only demonstrates a link between cocaine and the reward circuits in the brain but also associates the susceptibility to addiction with these mechanisms.

The results of this study show that sniffing cocaine triggers high levels of secretion in a central region of the brain called the striatum. Dopamine is known to play a critical role in the brain's response to reward as well as in its response to .

This study was carried out in ten non-addicted users of cocaine, all of whom sniffed cocaine on one test day and placebo powder on another. Participants underwent blood tests before and after taking the drug, and dopamine release in the brain was measured using PET scans.

"The ability of cocaine to activate dopamine release varies markedly from person to person. Our study suggests that this is related to how much of the drug the person consumed in the past," explained Dr. Leyton. The more cocaine someone has used in his or her lifetime, the more the will secrete dopamine during subsequent cocaine use. "It's possible therefore that the intensity of the reward-circuit response is related to increased susceptibility to ," stated Dr. Leyton.

Although the relationship between the intensity of dopamine secretion and the frequency of has been demonstrated, researchers still do not fully understand its mechanism of action. Is it the repeated stimulation of the reward circuit that leads to addiction, or is it an inherent sensitivity to addiction that leads to the increased secretion of dopamine? This question is not easy to answer, especially since other factors come into play, such as other aspects of the subject's personal history.

Whatever the answer, the relationship between dopamine and means that this hormone could be a potential target for treatment against addiction. More research is required before treatments are available, but this study opens a new door in this direction.

Source: McGill University Health Centre (news : web)

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not rated yet May 19, 2009
So this article is just to reiterate that we really don't know that much about cocaine's interactions with the brain? I'm pretty sure I read that in the late 90s, in my outdated 1970s textbook in health class.

Cocaine makes people feel good via the release of dopamine.
People like to feel good.
Cocaine users form a habit because of this.

We have known this for, according to this article, nearly two centuries. My point being, why is it an article at all if it doesn't offer anything new?
not rated yet May 19, 2009
In a recent paper we published, we posit that the variation in dopamine response with all substances of abuse is manifested by changes in hyperbolic temporal discounting. Steeper curves are associated with increased addiction liability. This process ameliorates with aging. Read our paper at: http://www.addict.../3532/1/
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2009
i thought cocaine was synthesized in the mid 1800's. isnt opium older than cocaine? not considering marijuana as a drug. and by the way i havent read the article. i just saw the overview
not rated yet May 21, 2009
no one person can resist plants and herbs?
1 / 5 (1) May 25, 2009
Mito: Cocaine comes from the coca plant, native to South America. South Americans have chewed or brewed coca leaves in tea for thousands of years and many continue to do so.

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