Researchers are looking into the possibility of treating cocaine addiction by addressing the imbalances in brain chemicals as an effect of substance abuse. A study being conducted at the University of Texas Medical School is looking into developing medications that are aimed at restoring the balance in these neurotransmitters to aid in addiction treatment.
According to F. Gerard Moeller, Ph. D, of the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, this study can help bring on a new facet of addiction treatment that will increase the effectiveness of behavioral therapy. By targeting the neurotransmitters affected by the addiction, the patient’s mindset is already changed at the physiological level, making him more open to counseling and therapy.
“With chronic cocaine use, there are changes in the brain that affect neurotransmitters that are responsible for impulsivity and decision making,” says Moeller. Restoring the balance will help the individual gain control of his thought processes so the effects of the drug such as violence and bizarre behavior are lessened.
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant and as such it works to elicit feelings of euphoria on the user. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the substance can cause a number of health conditions including respiratory failure, heart attack and seizures. An increased intake of the drug normally causes brain damage. In the brain, it is known to affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with sleep, moods, appetite and impulse control. Aside from serotonin, dopamine balance is also destroyed by this drug so the individual’s ability to make proper decisions is affected as well.
The said study is funded by the NIDA and is currently looking into developing treatments that are aimed at the addict’s serotonin and dopamine systems. By restoring the balance in these systems, the Moeller hopes to develop a line of treatment that will substantially change the current methods being used for addiction rehab. “We are looking into new medications now, as well as the ones that will be coming down the pipeline,” Moeller said.
Aside from studying dopamine and serotonin in relation to cocaine dependency, Moeller also aims to look at new medications that will hopefully help in preventing the occurrence of relapse. The study is expected to complete in five years.
In a few years, the world expects new and innovative treatments that will help cocaine dependents gain control of their lives. Moeller and his team hopes to bring this treatment with this study.