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Friday, May 1, 2015

Cocaine Users Altered Brain Function

The use of any mind altering substance has an impact on the brain. Understanding how certain drugs affect the brain may help researchers develop more effective treatments and drugs that may reduce the potential for relapse. A new study has found that the brain function of cocaine addicts is different from non-users, and is linked to highly impulsive behavior, Science Daily reports.

A joint study, conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Virginia Commonwealth University, who used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) determined the connections and direction of information flow between brain regions in both cocaine and non-cocaine users. They found that the brains of cocaine users differed from non-users regarding the strength of communication between key brain structures.

Currently, there are no FDA approved medications for the treatment of cocaine addiction, which affects an estimated 800,000 people in the U.S., according to the article. Disregarding negative consequences, cocaine addicts are often highly impulsive and prone to act rashly, which often leads to relapse among those attempting to recover from the disease. Finding ways to diminish impulsivity may lead to better success rates as the result of relapse prevention medications.

"These findings suggest that, while some cortical brain regions show altered activity in cocaine users, other regions may compensate for cocaine-associated deficits in function," said UTMB lead author Kathryn A. Cunningham, Chauncey Leake Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Center for Addiction Research. "Targeting altered brain connections in cocaine use disorder for therapeutic development is a fresh idea, offering a whole new arena for research and the potential to promote abstinence and prevent relapse in these vulnerable individuals."

The findings were published in NeuroImage: Clinical.

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