A New Way To Prevent Drug Addiction?

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Researchers hypothesize that increasing the new growth of nerve cells may be a way to prevent or treat drug addiction and relapse.

The Study

The study by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center has linked addiction with the process of neurogenesis--the new growth of nerve cells--in rodents. Researchers prevented neurogenesis in the hippocampus of rats to see how it affected behavior. Rats with blocked neurogenesis self-administered more cocaine and seemed to find it more rewarding. They also took longer to realize that the lever they normally pushed to receive cocaine was no longer dispensing the drug.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

What Does This Mean?

The study's findings suggest that decreased neurogenesis increases vulnerability for cocaine addiction and relapse. The researchers hypothesize that treatments that increase neurogenesis may have the opposite effect, possibly even preventing addiction before it occurs. Such a treatment could be useful for people being treated with medications known to be addictive. They also thing that increasing adult neurogenesis may help prevent relapse among addicted individuals. While there is still a lot of research to be done in testing this hypothesis, a treatment to prevent addiction and relapse could make a huge difference in the lives of current and future drug addicts.

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