New research in the Journal of Neuroscience has identified a mechanism of the brain that directly affects cocaine addicts’ potential for relapse. Head researcher Dr. Peter McCormick of University of East Anglia explained that the high rate of relapse for cocaine users spurred the desire to delve deeper into the cause. In a study of both rat brain cells and live rats, the researchers looked at the interaction between neuropeptides that have to do with the reward center of the brain.

“‘Our research showed that the release of neuropeptides influences activity in this part of the brain and that profound changes occur at the neuroreceptor level due to exposure to cocaine. We showed that cocaine disrupts the interaction between receptors and these changes could increase the risk of relapse under stressful conditions. Importantly, we identify a potential mechanism for protection against such relapse. By restoring the broken interaction, we may be able to minimize stress-driven relapse in addicts. This research lays the groundwork for the development of such approaches.'”

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