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- May 25, 2016 at 8:12 pm#39369AnonymousInactive
Though it doesn’t get into specifics, I thought it could provide some hope.
WASHINGTON — Could a once-a-month alcoholism shot keep some of the highest-risk heroin addicts from relapse? A drug that wakes up narcoleptics treat cocaine addiction? An old antidepressant fight methamphetamine cravings?
This is the next frontier in substance abuse. A better understanding of how addiction overlaps with other brain ailments is sparking a hunt to see whether a treatment for one might help another.
We’re not talking about attempts just to temporarily block an addict’s high. Today’s goal is to change the underlying brain circuitry that leaves substance abusers prone to relapse.
It’s “a different way of looking at mental illnesses, including substance-abuse disorders,” says National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow, who urged researchers Monday at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting to get more creative on brain-changing therapies for addiction.
Scientists increasingly believe that psychiatric diseases are not a problem in a single brain region but instead a result of dysfunctioning circuits spread over multiple regions, leaving them unable to properly communicate and work together. That disrupts, for example, the balance between impulsivity and self-control that plays a crucial role in addiction.
These networks of circuits overlap, explaining why so many mental disorders share common symptoms, such as mood problems.
Think of the brain as an orchestra, its circuits the violins and the piano and the brass section, all smoothly starting and stopping their parts on cue, Volkow said. “That orchestration is disrupted in psychiatric illness,” she said. “There’s not a psychiatric disease that owns one particular circuit.”
Medication isn’t the only option. Biofeedback teaches people with high blood pressure to control their heart rate. Dr. Charles O’Brien of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues are preparing to test whether putting addicts into MRI machines for real-time brain scans could do something similar, teaching them how to control their impulses to take drugs.
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