Study Reveals Brain Working Behind Drug Addiction

Addiction alters the structure and function of the human brain in such a way that it starts craving for more of the substance and the user ends up being trapped in a never-ending cycle. A person addicted to any substance usually finds it hard to quit on his own and often needs an intervention to become sober.

A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) recently unearthed new pathways in the brain associated with addiction. They also discovered that by tweaking them the drug craving behavior and the urge for drinking can be lessened.

Though the researchers tried their experiment on rats, the findings can well be replicated in humans, noted the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in November 2016. This could open a slew of treatment options for drug and alcohol related problems. However, a deep stimulation of the brain would be needed in achieving the result.

One of the most nagging problems with drug addiction is that it is a cycle of intermittent relapses. Addiction is also touted as a chronic problem marked by cycles of abuse, abstinence and relapse. It is not easy to quit any substance and become sober. A total commitment to the treatment is required to quell any addiction.

Understanding relationship between brain and addiction

In order to overcome an addiction, it is paramount to understand the role of the brain’s neural circuits that play an important part in relapses, said lead author Dr. Asheeta Prasad from UNSW’s School of Psychology.

“Current drug therapies are generally poor because we still don’t completely understand how the brain’s neural circuits contribute to different forms of relapse,” she added.

Deep brain stimulation and addiction treatment

The researchers noted that deep brain stimulation can play a huge role in managing addiction and prevent relapses. Currently, deep brain stimulation helps address Parkinson’s disease by stimulating the subthalamic nucleus. However, it has not been used for managing addiction in humans.

“Mapping these circuits is crucial if we are to move forward in treating drug and alcohol addiction,” Dr. Prasad said.

The researchers examined the ventral pallidum (VP) in the brain which acts as a regulator, motivator and is responsible for our behavior and emotions. According to earlier studies, VP is responsible for a variety of addiction such as to amphetamines, cocaine and alcohol. Incidentally, the VP is the principal brain area in triggering relapse, with activated VP neurons in different relapses.

The researchers found that primarily two main VP output brain pathways were crucial for different alcohol-related relapses. One is the brain pathways leading from the VP to the subthalamic nucleus, a tiny lens-shaped brain nucleus, and the second is the ventral tegmental region. Both the regions are switched on during relapse.

The researchers hoped that the understanding would help in the treatment of addiction and obesity and prevention of relapse.

Dealing with addiction

Most addictions can be treated but chronic and severe addictions entail complicated and painful withdrawal symptoms. Seeking early treatment is the best way to tackle an addiction. One should not delay or things can get out of hand. In severe cases, victims might need a network of support that would help them pull out of the deep dungeons of addiction.

If you have a loved one grappling with an addiction, contact the Recover Mental Health for guidance about the best drug treatment centers in your vicinity. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866–593–2339 to avail comprehensive treatment in top drug addiction treatment centers for a long-term recovery. Recover Mental Health is a resource centre dedicated to providing information on everything related to mental health and substance abuse. With over 21,000 listings in our directory, we provide quick and easy access to treatment centres across the United States and its territories as well as Canada.