Is It Possible to Change Brain Loop to Break Cocaine Addiction Cycle?

Cocaine is one of the most addictive and powerful controlled substances known today. It can be ingested in many different ways, including snorting it into nasal passages, rubbing it onto gums or under the tongue, injected intravenously with a syringe, or smoked in a pipe as a rock form (which is known as crack cocaine). A stimulant, cocaine produces quick but relatively short-lasting highs that produce feelings of intense euphoria, as well as increased energy and wakefulness. People have been known to become addicted to the substance in as little as three or four uses, and the struggle with cocaine addiction can be incredibly hard to overcome. However, there is some good news out there, which may bring a revolutionary turn to cocaine rehabilitation and treatment process.

Addiction recovery is understood in different ways by different cultures and people, and the central concept that is shared among all definitions is the concept of change, that is, a change for the better. The kind of change that is required from the process of recovery is the return to the normal conduction of mind and body.

First of all, it is important to understand how cocaine affects the brain in relation to this proposed idea. Cocaine causes long-term changes to the nucleus accumbent. It is the region in the brain that controls pleasure received from indulging in impulses such as food, sex, and drugs. After cocaine use, this area of the brain produces higher levels of two proteins– one of which is related to learning, and the other deals with addiction. The proteins work together in the body to establish a positive feedback loop, where both proteins activate the other to establish habits and positive reinforcements.

A study pinpointed the relationship between the over-produced proteins and coke use, and found that the more a person uses cocaine, the more active these proteins become. An experiment was conducted on rat subjects to study how changes in the protein levels would affect the rat’s cocaine addiction and addictive behavior in general. What was found was that even without cocaine present in the rat’s bodies, higher levels of the addiction made the test subjects act as if they were on cocaine. Adversely, lower levels of the learning protein made them act as if they did not have cocaine in the body, when they actually did.

The results from the study have shown that certain combinations or lack thereof involving these proteins may have an impact on establishing addictions. Since humans who are addicted to cocaine show mirror similarities in protein production as the rat test subjects do when on cocaine, it is believed that controlling one or both of the protein levels in the brain could help stop addiction in not only the rats but in humans as well. More tests must be done however, before this can be proven.

The test results do bring hope to the well-being of thousands of US communities though. It is believed that if further testing is done, then cocaine addiction could possibly even be avoided before it potentially begins by using gene therapy. It is yet to be shown whether this new idea can affect other addictions, such as meth or heroin addiction.