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New Approach for Cocaine Addiction

Research scientists have discovered blocking a hormone related to hunger regulation can limit cocaine cravings. The discovery could herald a new approach to overcoming addiction.

University of California, Irvine researchers, Shinjae Chung and Olivier Civelli, identified how the melanin-concentrating hormone works with dopamine in the brain’s “pleasure center” to create an addictive response to cocaine use.

The researchers further found that blocking MCH in these brain cells limited cocaine cravings.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter essential to the normal functioning of the central nervous system. It also is associated with feelings of pleasure and is released in the brain during eating, sex and drug use. Heightened levels of the neurotransmitter have been detected in the nucleus accumbens of drug addicts.

The study is the first to detail the interaction of MCH and dopamine in cocaine addiction and show that it occurs in the nucleus accumbens, a portion of the forebrain believed to play an important role in addiction and feelings of pleasure and fear. Study results appear in this week’s early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This discovery indicates that MCH is a key regulator of dopamine in a brain area associated with both pleasure and addiction,” says Civelli, the Eric L. and Lila D. Nelson Professor of Neuropharmacology.

“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.”

In mammals, MCH is involved with the regulation of feeding behavior and energy balance. High levels of the hormone can intensify feelings of hunger, and researchers worldwide have been seeking compounds to lower MCH for potential use in the treatment of obesity.

Chung and Civelli believe MCH works in the nucleus accumbens to increase the pleasure of eating. They found that dopamine signaling rose when MCH amounts increased in those brain cells.

The UCI researchers found that test mice conditioned to develop cocaine cravings had increased amounts of MCH and dopamine in their nucleus accumbens. When experimental compounds blocking MCH proteins were administered, those cravings disappeared.

In addition, Chung and Civelli discovered that mice lacking key receptors for MCH exhibited significantly fewer cocaine cravings.

They hope to learn whether modulating MCH might be beneficial in treating other dopamine-related disorders as well.

Source: University of California, Irvine

New Approach for Cocaine Addiction

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). New Approach for Cocaine Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/04/02/new-approach-for-cocaine-addiction/5102.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.