University of Pittsburgh Close To Finding Pharmaceutical Answer to Post-Withdrawal Cocaine Cravings

on Friday, 24 January 2014. Posted in Voices in Recovery, Breaking News, Cocaine

University Of Pittsburgh Researches Cocaine Cravings

A recent study hopes to prove that there is a way to reverse the process that causes intense cravings during the experience of cocaine withdrawal. The University of Pittsburgh studied specific nerve cells that send signals to the brain when using cocaine. The study used rats to examine the effects of cocaine addiction on nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens, a small region of the brain associated with reward, emotion, motivation and addiction. Structures at the end of the nerve cells relay signals to the brain such as cravings. The study hopes to prevent these nerve cells from sending craving signals to the brain after the use of cocaine. The end result if this study continues and becomes successful is the possible development of a drug or medication that can control the nerve cells and prevent them from sending craving signals to the brain. Patients attempting to recover from cocaine addiction would be able to use this medication in order prevent relapse and stop cravings from harming their progress in recovery.

According to their findings, scientists determined that when an individual uses cocaine there are immature synapses generated around the same time. These newly formed synapses send very few messages to the brain and therefore are known as “silent synapses”. Once a person quits using cocaine and is going through the withdrawal phase, the synapses go through a maturation process and eventually acquire the ability to send more signals including those that crave more of the drug. The researchers involved in the study came up with a hypothesis that reversing the maturation process of the synapse could prevent many of the craving signals from reaching the brain during withdrawal. The synapse would remain in their immature state as “silent synapses” that don’t have the ability to send many signals.

Scientists in the study looked to determine a method of reversing the maturation process for these synapse in order to control cravings during cocaine withdrawal. They discovered that a certain chemical receptor identified as CP-AMPAR proves to be essential for the synapses to mature. While experimenting, they found that synapse reverted to their immature, silent state when that particular receptor was removed. Their research proved that it is possible to reverse the process of maturing synapses and that this reversal can reduce the intense cocaine cravings that can occur during withdrawal from the drug. What remains to be found in this study is a way to maintain the reversal effects so that the stronger craving signals never reach the brain.

The main goal of this research is to develop and produce biological and pharmacological solutions that would de-mature cocaine generated synapses in a long-lasting way. This means they could create a medication for recovering cocaine addicts that would alter brain processes in a way that would significantly reduce cravings. This type of pill and the effects of the medication would make the experience of cocaine withdrawal much more bearable for patients going through rehabilitation for addiction. Cravings can be one of the most difficult aspects of rehab for addicts, often leading to issues of relapse as they find it hard to withstand temptation and cave in to using again. The research done by the University of Pittsburgh scientists could potentially eliminate this kind of obstacle from a cocaine addict’s recovery and make it possible for more people to experience success in quitting their cocaine addiction. . Now that scientists have broken down and identified the specific biological cause of cocaine cravings, it is possible to provide solutions that would stop the more intense cravings from ever occurring in the body.



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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.

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