Understanding how relapse works has been an ongoing struggle in the field of addiction treatment. For one thing, everyday a human being has to deal with many thoughts, emotions, triggers and struggles and especially in early sobriety this can take a toll. One of the reasons that I believe in the power of intervention and treatment is because it means a person does not have to deal with these hardships alone. Being in a safe, structured environment, at least until new, healthier patterns can be established is crucial to lasting sobriety.
Recently there was an excellent article published by The Huffington Post that sited research done by Brown University on how stress triggers drug abuse. The research at Brown found a region in the brain of rats “where the neural steps to drug relapse take place”. This allowed them to stop the process and decreased the chances of relapse. The study shows that stress affects the plasticity of certain dopamine neurons in a brain region that can have a huge effect on drug relapse.
Before this study was done, other research had shown how stress can have a domino effect on the life of a sober person, leading up to relapse, however this new study actually makes the link between which receptors might need to be blocked in order to prevent relapse in the future. By blocking these receptors, called kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in rats, the researchers found that it could prevent them from relapsing on cocaine when stress was involved.
Using this research and translating into treatment for human patients is the next step. Over ten years of research have been the building blocks for this breakthrough study and by using these findings the possibility for advancements in the treatment of drug addiction is now more possible than before. In the meantime traditional means of treatment including therapeutic methods, medicine and 12-step recovery programs have been doing a very good job in this regard.
If you or someone you love is looking for a way out of drug or alcohol addiction, call me today to find out more about an intervention plan that will work for you. You are not alone, and do not have to struggle down this difficult road alone.
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Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.