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Blocking of hormone in brain’s pleasure region limits cocaine cravings

Pharmacological researchers from the University of California Irvine discovered what may lead to new and more effective approaches to overcoming drug addiction. These researches have found that cocaine cravings can be curbed by blocking a particular hormone that is related to the regulation of hunger. Their findings were published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team, led by Oliver Civelli and Shinje Chung of the said university, discovered that the melanin-concentrating hormone or MCH acts with the dopamine found in the pleasure center of the brain and this action creates addictive responses to the drug cocaine. The researchers were also able to limit the resulting addictive responses and cocaine cravings by blocking the receptors for MCH in the brain cells with dopamine.

MCH in mammals is responsible for the regulation of hunger and energy balance. High levels of it in the body leads to intense hunger, which is why the hormone is also being studied alongside obesity. A lot of research on MCH and obesity have been previously conducted, particularly on finding a compound that could lower its levels in the body.

The current study is the first of its kind to explore the details of the interaction of dopamine and MCH in cocaine addiction. The study further showed that the interaction occurs in a part of the forebrain called nucleus accumbens which is believed to have an integral role in the development of addiction.

For the study, Civelli and Chung used lab mice which they conditioned to develop addictive behaviors towards cocaine. Upon close observation, they found that these mice had increased levels of both dopamine and MCH in the mice brain’s nucleus accumbens. Upon introduction of experimental compounds of blocking MCH receptors, the researchers reported that the mice cravings disappeared.

The researcher also found that the mice without key MCH receptors to begin with exhibited fewer cocaine cravings and less addictive behavior.

According to Civelli, their findings suggest that MCH if one of the key regulators of dopamine neurotransmitters present in a brain region connected to both addiction and pleasure. “We believe that efforts to target MCH may lead to new treatments to break addiction to cocaine and, possibly, other drugs, like amphetamines and nicotine,” he added.

More information about cocaine and other drug addiction is available further into this website. Miramar Recovery Center offers individualized drug addiction treatment for people with cocaine, meth, and other drug problems as well as for alcoholism and co-occurring disorders. Call our helpline today for more information regarding our services.