Scientists have long been aware of dopaminergic changes in the brains of drug addicted patients, but no one really knew whether those brain differences pre dated and increased the likelihood of addiction, or were caused as a result of drug use through addiction. Researchers at the University of Cambridge now have the answer, and their findings are exciting addictions researchers considering the treatment implications of this new data.
Using animal subjects and PET brain scanning, researchers where able to identify statistically significant differences in the brains of animals that were later to prove more susceptible to cocaine addiction. The animals more susceptible to cocaine addiction had fewer dopamine receptors in a certain region of the brain, and this finding is consistent with "after" studies of drug addicted humans who also show this reduction in dopamine receptors.
While research is in the very early stages, scientists say that this discovery could prove ground breaking for the treatment of addiction, and that future recovery techniques may be far more effective and less intrusive than current techniques. Researchers also speculate that these brain changes will be seen not only with drug addiction, but with all sorts of compulsive and unhealthy behaviors, such as gambling and sex addiction as well.
When researchers have a better understanding of the gene expressions that indicate this brain sub set, prophylactic treatments may even be possible, minimizing the possibility of abuse in susceptible individuals before it occurs. Good news on the horizon for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.